February 6th, 2012
11:08 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama: Israel undecided on attack against Iran

(CNN) – President Barack Obama on Sunday said Israel has not decided whether it will strike Iran, but added if tensions escalate this spring, no options would be taken off the table.

“I don't think Israel has made a decision,” Obama said in the president’s traditional pre-Super Bowl interview, this time with NBC’s Matt Lauer.

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But he stressed that the United States would work with Israel to resolve the situation using diplomacy.

“(Israel), like us, believe(s) that Iran has to stand down on its nuclear weapons program,” he said.

The United States, he said in an additional portion of the interview which aired Monday, has "a pretty good bead on what's happening with the nuclear program."

"I think we have a very good estimate of when they could potentially achieve breakout capacity, what stage they're at in terms of processing uranium," the President said.

He acknowledged challenges in predicting Iranian moves, including internal divisions within the country.

His comments came after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters on Thursday there is a growing likelihood Israel could attack Iran in the spring.

Obama argued Iran is “feeling the pinch” after the international community has enforced sanctions in an “unprecedented” way to pressure the country away from developing its suspected nuclear weapons facilities.

“Until they do, I think Israel is going to be rightly very concerned. And we are, as well,” Obama said.

Obama said the U.S. has closer “intelligence and military consultations” with Israel than ever. And while he insisted his administration is adamant for a peaceful resolution, the president didn’t rule out military involvement.

“We're not going to take options off the table. And I've been very clear, we're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating a nuclear arms race in a volatile region,” Obama said.

Turning to politics, the president re-visited his pre-Super Bowl interview from 2009, when he said if his economic ideas failed to turn around the struggling economy, his presidency would be “a one-term proposition.”

The line has become a staple on the campaign trail for many Republican presidential candidates, who argue that the president's economy policies have indeed failed.

But on Sunday, the president said the economy has made progress since he took office and emphasized the need to stay on a track that “doesn’t throw that progress off.”

“I deserve a second term. But we are not done,” Obama said, outlining the need to boost American manufacturing and energy. “And we have to return to old-fashioned, American values. Everybody getting a fair shot. Everybody doing their fair share. And everybody playing by the same rules.”

As for his Super Bowl pick, the president–despite repeated questioning–would not take the bait and gave no predictions on which team will take home the trophy.

“I think this is going to be a tough game. Both teams have their weaknesses. They're not as strong as they were I think a couple years ago. When you look at the Patriots, their defense is a little shaky. The Giants have just come back,” Obama said. “I can't tell you who's going to win this thing.”

– CNN's Ashley Killough and Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

Also see:

Paul defends Romney on 'poor' comment

Gingrich will try to reset strategy

Romney backer calls on Gingrich to drop out

Romney faults stimulus at plant that received $2.3 million


Filed under: 2012 • Iran • Israel • President Obama
soundoff (160 Responses)
  1. CAJ

    Like they would tell you Obama of all people after you glorious support for them :(

    February 5, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  2. mom and sister of soldiers

    Do we honestly think Isreal would tell Obama their plans for Iran? He isn't exactly pro Isreal nor does he have regard for their president. I find his spin on our "economic" turnaround interesting....apparently he does not read the figures posted in the WWJ! It is time journalist print the facts and not the spin.

    February 5, 2012 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  3. Mj

    The US is a nation that loves, thrives off war..every 10-20 years there must be a conflict..I mean this peace loving freedom loving country does an awful lot of killing for some reason yet its peaceful. Another war will mean the end of the american empire. The americans are voting for newt, romney, santorum..basically Neo conservatives who are advocating war. You yanks deserve what you get and i promise you the empire will be over soon.

    February 5, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  4. thelittlelizard

    Well, the Israeli's don't know when they will go until it is time to go. Thus, what the president said is correct. However, it doesn't invalidate what Secrerary of Defense has indicated. It is up the Israel to determine how it will respond and I wouldn't count on them notifying use when that occurs. It is interesting how their are two carrier task forces at the mouth of the straight of Hormuz i.e U.S.S. Linlcon, U.S.S. Vinson, U.S.S Enterprise enroute as well as French Carrier De Gaulle and battle group on the way. It is my impression Israel won't wait much longer. Good weather ends around June 15, and they will need 90 days after go green to get a good handle on it. I project March 1-15, 2012.

    February 5, 2012 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  5. Steven

    I really, really hope we are not "supporting" Israel's possible attack. No matter how America feels about Israel, we can not advocate the invasion or first-strike of another nation (like we did with Iraq).

    February 5, 2012 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  6. thelittlelizard

    Well, the Israeli's don't know when they will go until it is time to go. Thus, what the president said is correct. However, it doesn't invalidate what the Secretary of Defense has indicated. It is up the Israel to determine how it will respond, and I wouldn't count on them notifying us when that occurs. It's interesting how their are two carrier task forces at the mouth of the straight of Hormuz i.e U.S.S. Lincoln, U.S.S. Vinson, U.S.S Enterprise enroute as well as French Carrier De Gaulle and battle group on the way. It's my impression Israel won't wait much longer. Good weather ends around June 15, and they will need 90 days after go green to get a good handle on it. I project March 1-15, 2012.

    February 5, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  7. Ned

    Any country with nukes is safe from foreign invasion. Iran do not want same scenario like in Iraq. As simple as that.
    If small insignificant Israel can have nukes, why not ANYONE else???

    February 5, 2012 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  8. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    The last time Israel did something like this, they told us after the fact and said what are we gonna do about it. Of course, that was while the Indicted War Criminal Ariel Sharon was still PM, and not Bebe, who is more politically astute that many of his predecessors.

    February 5, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  9. Like It Is

    Obama will do whatever AIPAC tells him to do. Just like every other sellout politician in Washington.

    February 5, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  10. Maurice

    There should be no nuclear weapons in the middle east , that includes Israel and Iran. Furthermore, there should be no nuclear weapons in the whole world (none in US, UK, India, Pakistan, Russia, France, Canada, etc)!

    February 5, 2012 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  11. Bostoncreme

    busy watching the super bowl, attacking Iran is a bad bad self destructive idea either for the US or Israel.

    February 5, 2012 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  12. NOvember 2012

    obama wants to wait and give the sanctions a chance to work... everyone knows (who can read) the sanctions recently imposed will do nothing. obama does not want a war to begin on his watch...unlike the lybian situation obama can't lead from behind for the UK and France... problem is Israel may have to force the situation they are doing all they can to keep a low profile on this...looks like Iran is feeling bold, knowing they have obama in a corner...obama has not problem holding action off until after the election even if it allows Iran opportunity to build up and ready themselves. Can't send in a seal team to face off a second rate security detail and take a bow of success like he has done in the past. obama might just have to get his hands bloody on this one. hahah

    February 5, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  13. MikeH

    It's a dangerous game you are playing there Mr Obama.

    Israel might use their bunker-busting nukes to take out Iran's underground facilities. What direction will the global economy take if this happens?

    Scary stuff indeed.

    February 5, 2012 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  14. Stephen Sockett

    Sounds like they are taking a page from Ron Paul's book.Better be safe than sorry and vote Ron Paul in.

    February 5, 2012 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  15. Mr. N

    Why is our spineless president kowtowing towards Israel? BO needs to tell Israel if you strike Iran it will result in a new protracted war and strengthen Iranian unity towards their leadership. It will also result in the deaths of American citizens and create political instability in the middle east causing fuel prices to skyrocket and harming our fragile economy. Israel if you attack we will end all financial and military aid. Period!

    February 5, 2012 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  16. James

    Where was America and the other members of the security council when Israel was developing nuclear weapons. For that matter, when China, India and Pakistan were doing it. I did not hear of any talk about bombing the facilities in these countries.

    February 5, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  17. bobcat ( in a hat )

    Since the time frame has been announced a couple of times now, I think they are telling us we'll get involved militarily sometime this spring.

    February 5, 2012 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  18. Moe

    The problem with the west negotiating with Iran, is that they are underestimating Iran. They think that Iran rulers are like Saddam’s government. One day they are friend and the next day they ask for his death. Iran has learned so much during two golf and Afghanistan wars allowing them to assess each step they make carefully. In the last round of negotiations, Iran agreed to give up their pile of enriched uranium in exchange in exchange for the west to provide them low enrich uranium, however, Iran calculated, rightly so, that if they give up all their enrich uranium at once, then they will have no bargaining chip any longer, so they turned and asked that they will either send their enrich uranium to either Turkey or Brasil, something that the west refused. Why did they west refused, you may ask. Because the west has no intention of helping Iran. They want Iran to be held hostage and dependent on the West, as it is the case with most of the Arab nations.
    All in all, the west and Iran must get the next negotiation opportunity right, otherwise, buy a Prius or start riding a bicycle if you don’t want to pay $5.00 or more at the pump. And that’s the least of the cost to a war with Iran. After all, you can look back at Iraq and Afghanistan’s wars and remember what US General Zini have said:
    ” If you like Iraq and Afghanistan, you are going to love Iran.”

    February 5, 2012 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  19. rightospeak

    You guys are playing with fire. Nuclear fire.

    February 5, 2012 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  20. RSAT4

    Who is international community? you guys like to say international community this international community that wheres is just few countries actual its a gangstar like thing. The so called UN security councel must be disbanded because France, Cananda, Britain and Germany will never oppose USA in anything, actual their are friends if not gangstars. The friendship itself is conflict of interest.

    The UN security councel should consist the following cosist: one country from north America, two countries from South America, two countries from Africa, two countries from middle east, two countries from Europe, two from Asia. I believe sober decision can found in this UN security councel structure.

    February 5, 2012 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  21. works4me

    They can't just attack a country because they think they have WMDs... Oh yea...Bush did.

    February 5, 2012 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  22. yahmez

    Israel is only following the US lead on preemptive strikes. When Bush decided to go to war with Iraq, based on lies about WMDs, we set the stage for wars throughout the Middle East. Wars based no longer on actions, but fears. As long as these nations fear what the other may do, there can never be peace. We should place the same sanctions on Israel that we have on Iran, until both nations grow up and stop the stupid sabre rattling.

    February 5, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  23. Doc Ock

    Iran is always going to be a thorn in somebody's side. The issue of what to do about their efforts to build a nuclear weapon is a complicated one. A pro-longed war will not help Israel. The US can't afford another war and neither can anyone else in NATO. It would be nice if China and Russia would actually work with the UN on Iran as Iran having nuclear ability is not in China or Russia's bests interests and threatens everyone's and economic interests.

    February 5, 2012 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  24. johndoughboy

    This probably is the best news so far and further thought may convince them to abandon the attack altogether. There are tremendous risks involved in such an attack.

    February 5, 2012 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  25. georgex

    Much of the Muslim world will think that the U.S. is behind an attack by Israel and produce more recruits against our (the United States) interests. Diplomacy needs to be used to avoid this.

    February 5, 2012 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
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