WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama said Sunday he does not think Israel has decided whether to attack Iran over its disputed nuclearprogram, 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, “hopefullydiplomatically.”
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 nuclearfacilities, arguing forcefully that an attack ultimately would only strengthen the regime in Tehran. Israel fears that Iran is fast approaching a point at which a limited military strike would no longer be enough to head off an Iranian bomb.
“I don’t think that Israel has made a decision on what they need to do,” Obama saidduring a pre-Super Bowl
interview with NBC. Hereiterated that the U.S has removed no option fromconsideration in dealing with Iran – an allusion to military intervention – but emphasized that the U.S wants a diplomaticsolution built around a world coalition.
Iran insists its nuclearpursuits are for peacefulcivilian purposes, not a bomb.
After years of worries about Iran’s nuclear program, world leaders are now showing real concern that Israel could attack the Islamic republicimminently – a move that might trigger a broader war and disrupt the international economy.
Iran’s regime says it wants to extinguish the Jewish state, and the West accuses it of assembling the material and know-how to build a nuclear bomb. Just last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta would not dispute a report that he believes Israel may attackIran this spring in an attempt to set back theIslamic republic’s nuclearprogram.
Obama refused to saywhether the U.S. would get notice from Israel before any potential strike on Iran.
“I will say that we have closer military and intelligenceconsultation between our two countries than we’ve everhad,” 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 leadingthat persuasion initiative, even though Washington largely has concluded that outsideargument will have littleeffect on Israelidecision-making.