July 7th, 2009
03:15 PM ET
5 years ago

Obama: U.S. not giving Israel green light to attack Iran

 President Obama meets Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin near Moscow.
President Obama meets Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin near Moscow.

MOSCOW, Russia (CNN) – The United States is "absolutely not" giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama told CNN Tuesday.

"We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East," Obama said, referring to Iran's nuclear ambitions.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday appeared to leave the door open for Israel to attack Iran if it saw fit.

"Israel can determine for itself - it's a sovereign nation - what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else," Biden said on ABC's "This Week."

Obama said Tuesday that Biden had simply been stating a fact, not sending a signal.

"I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels," he said.

The top U.S. military leader, Adm. Mike Mullen, said later on Tuesday that he understands Israel's position.

"The Israelis see Iran achieving a nuclear capability as an existential threat, and that fact is tied to the rhetoric of the leadership of Iran which ... has said that they would seek to eliminate Israel," said Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

His counterparts in the Gulf also understand the Israeli stance, whether or not they agree, Mullen said.

"That gets back to the criticality ... of solving this before Iran gets a nuclear capability, or that anyone... would take action to strike them. And I think that window is a very narrow window," he said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

He said he hoped diplomacy would resolve the issue.

"I am hopeful that that dialogue is productive. I worry about it a great deal if its not," Mullen said.

The State Department took a similar line on Monday.

"Our goal here is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. When I say 'our' it is just not the United States - it is the international community," spokesman Ian Kelly said. "Israel is a sovereign country. We are not going to dictate its actions. We also are committed to Israel's security and we share Israel's deep concerns about Iran's nuclear program."

Asked if this could be interpreted as the United States flashing a green light for Israel to attack Iran's nuclear sites, Kelly said, "I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action."

The Israeli government considers Iran's nuclear program to be the dominant threat facing the country.

–CNN White House Correspondent Ed Henry in Moscow and CNN's Emily Sherman in Washington contributed to this report.


Filed under: Iran • President Obama
soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. Jefe

    I think Israel should do whatever they please, and we should stay completely out of the way. It seems the Israelis and their lackey infiltrators (i.e. Lieberman) are willing to sink the US as long as it benefits Israel. If they want to bomb Iran and watch as the entire Muslim world invades them, so be it.

    Then Israel can launch every illegal WMD in their nuclear arsenal and destroy their neighbors while they themselves are destroyed. It'll be one big happy mess, exactly what both sides of the conflict have been dreaming of. We need to just stay far out of the way, regardless of the countless millions of civilian deaths are on the hands of the leadership of Iran and Israel when its all said and done. And PLEASE, don't ask us for rebuilding money.

    I am so sick of the tens of billions of dollars we send directly to Israel every year, and in return all we get is meddling in our government, and Mossad spies caught spying on us seemingly at least once a year.

    July 7, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. HSNP

    Well, I think the Israeli's are grown and on their own. If they want to bomb somebody they have every right to do so. They have shown remarkable restraint in past years.

    July 7, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Both were correct. Israel CAN determine for itself what it wants to do...and will no doubt do so. Biden was 100% correct and no fault should be directed towards him for saying so. If Israel attacks Iran, however, it does so at its own peril and can do so without our support whatsoever.

    And if you don't understand the setup between Biden and Obama making these two statements within days of each other to get that message across...Biden allowing himself to take heat and Obama playing good cop...then you're a complete idiot. Biden saying what he did and the media latching onto it like a pup starving for a teat is what allowed Obama to make the veiled proimse to leave Israel in the lurch if it acts imprudently.

    July 7, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Charles

    Yes. Iran starts to grow oppsition. Any irresponsible actions will push Iran more radical. Too bad Bush/Chenney killed Saddam, otherwise, he probably at least can give Iran some headache.

    July 7, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  5. Peter E

    I don't understand either side of these comments, either praising or criticizing the president. His Israel policy is 100% the same as that of George W. Bush! Fact: Bush has gone out of his way to ask Israel not to initiate bomb attacks on Iran. Fact: Bush has laid out the Roadmap, which is a two-state solution in line with UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. (our policy for 40 years) Fact: Bush too has asked repeatedly for Arabs to recognize Israel and for Israel to stop its illegal settlement activities.
    Anyone who judges Obama on Israel any different than they judged Bush is a hypocrite!

    July 7, 2009 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
  6. JS007

    As usual, Obama has to mop up after Biden. Those of you calling Obama weak don't get the picture: he makes friends with Russia, the main enabler of Iran's nuclear program, and all of a sudden Iran is out of options. OR, you could try to bomb Iran's well hidden, underground facilities, most likely fail, but cause Iran to retaliate by stifling the flow of oil through the strait of Hormuz. How many of you cowboys would like $7 a gallon gas?

    July 7, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  7. andy

    Hey BO, I don't think they asked your permission. Israel has a country to defend. If BO was not so busy trying to kiss up to the muslims, he would know this.

    July 7, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    @ J.P., who said "Five-thousand-years of recorded history have shown that peace can never be "negotiated." The loser must beg for it."

    I said it yesterday in response to the nonsense about only winning when you meet violence with violence...and I'll say it again...tell that to Jesus, Ghandi and MLK.

    July 7, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  9. Tia

    I don't see why Israel even needs our permission anyway. If Iran was threatening the US, Obama (I hope) wouldn't hesitate to tell Iran off. I think Israel has the same right to tell the rest of the world to butt out. They aren't the 51st State.

    They have the right to defend themselves by any means necessary. They got that right when Prez. Truman (a DEMOCRAT by the way) recognized them as a nation unto themselves. End of story.

    July 7, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  10. Jefe

    @ Reality:

    "We've been able to further the cause of liberty via Israel."

    That's so untrue its almost funny. First of all, both Jordan and Saudi Arabia actually have strategic borders with Iraq, whereas Israel's borders aren't all that important to us. We have the Persian Gulf and now Iraq when it comes to the Iranian border.

    Israel costs the US money. I think Israel should be allowed to exist peacefully, but I also think that the US should stay FAR out of their business, unless they're going to give us something in return.

    July 7, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  11. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Israel gets 50% of our foreign military aid. They've used us to fight war on their enemies that cost hundreds of billions of US taxpayer dollars and thousands of US military lives. They continue to resell US weapon technology to our adversaries in the Middle East.
    If Israel is truly our 'ally,' then tell me, what have they done for us all these years? Even the muslim theocracy of Saud Arabia contributes more to America with their supplies of oil! We have better trade with Egypt than we do with Israel. Why is Israel then considered our 'greatest' ally in the Middle East?

    July 7, 2009 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  12. Peter E

    Somebody please tell me if they know of ANY difference in Israel policy between Obama and Bush? They BOTH told Israel to stop its illegal settlements. They BOTH told Arabs to recognize the country. They BOTH asked Israel not to initiate bomb attacks on Iran. There isn't a single piece of policy that's different! If you criticize Obama's policies towards Israel, then you also criticize Bush. If you like Obama's policies, then you should have no problem with Bush's policies. Face facts!

    July 7, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  13. Fla.

    Why the duplication? Was there not enough right wing nonsense in the same article earlier? Or Limbaugh posers (chicago4obama = Bass questionably not Jewish nor Obama voters) casting their transparent seeds of 'chaos' doubt?

    Oh well.... Again:

    Fortunately, intelligent & pragmatic foreign policy has returned to the White House. It is not our place to police the world, but rather work respectfully with other nations, including Israel, towards mutual interests of peace & stability.

    Godspeed, Mr. President.

    July 7, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  14. ib

    I'm sure they will ask for King Obama's permission before they do anything. Yeah right; they will bow down to him like he wants everyone else to bow down to him.

    July 7, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  15. lynn

    Did you who criticize even read the article? He is simply saying he would rather things be worked out diplomatically. He's not trying to meddle. Now if Isreal gets attacked then they have to do what they have to do. No question. They don't need our permission to take care of themselves so why is this even an issue? Why did you even put President Obama's name in it? Is it because they need our military? If not then let them handle it, but don't criticize the President because he would rather look at the bigger picture and not let Iran have access to nuclear weapons period which would be in the best interest for ALL of us. He's trying to resolve things peacefully. Have we been up under Bush so long we've forgotten what that's like?

    July 7, 2009 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  16. Bill

    Republican Presidents Ronald Regan and George H.W. Bush and CIA supplied weapons to Taliban and other Muslim separatists to Disintegrate USSR in the 1980s and 1990s. These weapons were used in Bloodshed of thousands in Kazakhstan Tajikistan Uzbekistan Azerbaijan So now Russia is supplying weapons to Al Quida to Attack US Troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Obama is trying to Bring Peace.... Go Obama Go.
    Previous Presidents were Warmongers.

    July 7, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  17. paul

    The war hawks here are those w shallow souls. We must ry all means b4 we think war.....America has been in at least 1 war since the 1940's....war, war war. Its time to try peace first.

    July 7, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  18. Bill, Bloominton IL

    But Biden did. Maybe it is time for the Israeli War Machine to be unleashed and clear up this Iranian mess once and for all.

    July 7, 2009 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  19. JLS

    Gotta love Joe Biden. Hope he owns a lot of shoes, cause he keeps sticking them into his mouth!!

    July 7, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  20. fair chat

    Obama was so uneasy and embarrassed by the lecture given by PUTIN in his first visit to MOSCOW. Putin didn't take our president seriously.

    July 7, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  21. tim

    Biden was 100% right in what he said. Israel is a sovereign nation. We can say what we would like them to do (as Obama has stated), but we don't control them. Then question asked by George S. hinted at some type of US control and Biden answer in that context correctly. People trying to say Biden's answer was some how "wrong" needs look up the definition of "sovereign". They are not a US state. They never could be, they violate oo much of the US Constitution and rights guaranteed there in to even get much respect from me. But if they want to kill Muslims, the US has shown the world that is a right sovereign nations appear to have.

    July 7, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  22. mark

    Don't forget about Israel relentlessly attacking the USS Liberty during the six day war. The Liberty was in INTERNATIONAL WATERS, flying the US flag, and was attacked by both fighter planes and torpedo boats. 34 killed, 171 injured. Captain McGonagle of the Liberty received the Medal of Honor for his efforts – of course he was quietly awarded the Medal at the Washington Naval Yard. With "allies" like Israel, who needs enemies like Iran?!?

    July 7, 2009 06:52 pm at 6:52 pm |
  23. Family

    Israel is no different than terrorist like Hezbollah or Hamas and I am glad President Obama is smart enough not be a puppy dog for Israel like the last 2 presidents.

    To all Israel supporters, please move back to your own country if you don't like what our President believes in.

    July 7, 2009 06:53 pm at 6:53 pm |
  24. lauralizm

    He thinks before he acts.. something new for a president huh?

    July 7, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  25. Gidos

    Yeah Israel will be your only friend in the mid east till kingdom cometh...or till Obama wins over the Iranians and, eh, who else is your enemies up there again?

    July 7, 2009 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
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