Israel undecided on attacking Iran
AA PhotoU.S. President Barack Obama said yesterday he does not think Israel has decided whether to attack Iran over its disputed nuclear program, a standoff that has the Middle East on edge.
The president sought to assure allies and foes alike that the United States was working in lockstep with Israel to solve the crisis, “hopefully diplomatically.” Obama’s comments came as Israel’s major allies in the West are working hard to talk it out of a unilateral military strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, arguing forcefully that an attack ultimately would only strengthen the regime in Tehran.
“I don’t think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do,” Obama said during a pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC television. He reiterated that the United States has removed no option from consideration in dealing with Iran an allusion to military intervention but emphasized that the U.S. wants a diplomatic solution built around a world coalition.
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would not dispute a report that he believes Israel may attack Iran this spring in an attempt to set back the Islamic republic’s nuclear program. Obama refused to say whether the U.S. would get notice from Israel before any potential strike on Iran. “I will say that we have closer military and intelligence consultation between our two countries than we’ve ever had,” Obama said, adding, “We are going to be sure that we work in lockstep as we proceed to try to solve this hopefully diplomatically.” The U.S. is leading that persuasion initiative, even though Washington largely has concluded that outside argument will have little effect on Israeli decision-making.
“Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us,” Obama said. “It could have a big effect on oil prices. We’ve still got troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran.” As for the danger of retaliation by Iran against the United States, Obama said, “We don’t see any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities right now.” Obama said Iran is feeling the pinch of sanctions but Israel is rightfully worried about its security.