WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Sunday 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. 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 said during a pre-Super Bowl
interview with NBC. He reiterated that the U.S 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.
Iran insists its nuclear pursuits are for peaceful civilian 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 republic imminently — 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 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.