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.

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Gingrich will try to reset strategy

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

    Obama is the best President I can remember...

    February 6, 2012 02:19 am at 2:19 am |
  2. cyberbeing

    What? Now he is a spokesperson for Israel?

    February 6, 2012 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  3. Ramrod

    Let me see. We did not win in Korea, We got our butt kicked in Vietnam, Iraq was a failure, Afghanistan is the nexr faiulure. Now we want to start a new one with Iran. Who are the geniuses in Washington?
    Oh, I understand, these warmongers make money, we spill blood.

    February 6, 2012 02:41 am at 2:41 am |
  4. jerome

    “I deserve a second term. But we are not done,” Obama said.

    I deserve. What a surprise.

    February 6, 2012 02:45 am at 2:45 am |
  5. J Billings

    Just take all the fing "options off the table" and let Israel back themselves for once. I don't hate Israelis nor Arabs... I guess I haven't been brainwashed enough in America yet..

    February 6, 2012 02:48 am at 2:48 am |
  6. Kepaze

    I suppose Israel should first decide to leave hypocricy aside and stop its own nuclear proliferation instead of threating other nations on the issue..

    February 6, 2012 03:08 am at 3:08 am |
  7. Dianne Beaver

    Israel plans to do it before elections so that the United States gets dragged into it. US politicians will have no choice but to support them to be able to get reelected, as they are under constant pressure of Jewish lobbies and threat of Jewish votes. With allies like Israel, who needs enemies?

    United States have been involved in multiple wars in the middle east already, Israel used Americans to eliminate their enemies and received sympathy and billions of dollars aid on top. US taxpayers' money pours into Israel, this is a one way relationship in which US loses and Israel wins. Without Israel's friendship, US economy would be in much better shape, Americans wouldn't suffer casualties and gain enemies by day, US credibility wouldn't be on the floor. Americans would be living in peace away from it all. This game has to come to an end.

    February 6, 2012 03:28 am at 3:28 am |
  8. rrhloe

    We don't actually know what Israel has said – we only know what bummo says. Sort of like visiting all 57 states, the border is more secure than ever before, we didn't know anything about solyndra, unemployment won't go over 8%, etc, etc. Do we know what, if anything, Netanyahu has said? No. But we know what the person who disrespects him and Israel would like us to believe.

    February 6, 2012 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  9. James Savik

    I'm thinking that Obama is not on Netanyahu's speed dial list.

    February 6, 2012 03:33 am at 3:33 am |
  10. Al

    I will boycott the election if the US is involved with action against Iran.

    February 6, 2012 04:03 am at 4:03 am |
  11. Ajay

    Iran needs to stand down from its nuclear weapon program but Israel will continue to make nuclear weapons "in self defense" and US will continue to veto any UNSC resolution which condemns Israel!

    February 6, 2012 04:13 am at 4:13 am |
  12. Eardley Ham Woodbury, MN

    "I don't think the Israelis are going to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities, but if they do, we'll help in any way we can."

    February 6, 2012 04:27 am at 4:27 am |
  13. stonesrule

    israel will do what it wants in it's own best interest and on its own terms. Israel knows it cannot count on the US for backup or support, at least not under Obama.

    February 6, 2012 04:30 am at 4:30 am |
  14. SN

    "a matter of one more year"..."all options on the table"..."rogue nation"..."they want us to wipe off the map" and so on. We have been hearing these propagandist statements against the nuclear program of Iran for long. And Israel (amongst all nations) seems to be the one that plays the bad cop role. Did Israel ever sign NPT? Then why does it care as to which nation gets nuclear or not ! And USA seems to be playing second fiddle here when Obama says that he "thinks Israel is undecided" !! looks like the race/war for "oil" is getting heated up again and "all options are on the table".

    February 6, 2012 04:37 am at 4:37 am |
  15. Joe Hill

    Let the Jews fight their own wars for a change.

    February 6, 2012 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  16. Kevin

    It's depressing that Israel seem to be in the driver's seat vis-á-vis a resolution to Iran's nuclear ambition. A US/Israel-Iran war would be a grave mistake.

    February 6, 2012 05:12 am at 5:12 am |
  17. aroth

    Yes, yes, Iran must "stand down on its nuclear weapons program" that we can't even prove they have. This will play out just like Iraq's "WMD program" did. Might as well skip straight to the invasion and get it over with.

    February 6, 2012 05:51 am at 5:51 am |
  18. Jon

    The last person Israel would tell is Obama.

    February 6, 2012 05:58 am at 5:58 am |
  19. Jerry

    Mr. President, PLEASE don't screw up with one of our most sincere allies (Israel). And most of all; stop meddling with the sovereignty of other countries. Mostly you and your administration know didli about foreign policy. Remember Mr. Kaddaffy?! Instead you should be paying much more attention to the problems that we face at home. Need I say more?

    February 6, 2012 06:50 am at 6:50 am |
  20. kristian goldmund aumann

    NO WAR in IRAN

    War III
    Poem against War

    Bonfires burn brightly
    ”I see what you don’t see”
    Deathly pale rattles the sky.
    The children have grown old;
    Their voices speak of the war –
    Your dreams are like land mines,
    One slip, and the game is over.
    In search of the olive branch,
    A dove appears in the waters of hatred.
    ”Scorched Wing”
    No hope is dawning in the sky.

    KRISTIAN GOLDMUND AUMANN
    AUTHOR/2012

    February 6, 2012 07:08 am at 7:08 am |
  21. MorkfromOrk

    Why not submit this decision to the UN Security Council? Why are the US and Israel unilaterally contemplating attacking a nation that has not committed any act of agression to another state? Why has President Obama not asked Israel instead to stop its politic of aparhteid and colonisation of Palestinian land instead, the real cause of conflict in that region? China and Russia ar right in vetoieing the last UN SC's resolution againt Syria. The West thinks it can do anything it wants and condemn nations that refuse to align with their geopolitics. As Russia and China continue to play an increased role in world politics, the West will just have to swallow its pride and realize that the World has indeed change and there is a new balance of power. We saw that prima facie when Russia forced Georgia to capitulate after their recent face-off and the US felt powerless to intervene. A long asthe US continues it longe-ranger crusade to defend Israel's zionist politic against all logic and decency, Russia and China have my blessing in using their veto power at the UN.

    February 6, 2012 07:18 am at 7:18 am |
  22. Anonymous

    Just cut off their foreign aid and support if they attack.

    February 6, 2012 07:55 am at 7:55 am |
  23. Rudy NYC

    Rest assured, if a Republican wins the presidential race in 2012 we will be at war with Iran within weeks of being sworn in. All of the GOP candidates are already on record as saying that they would attack Iran, and apparently dismayed that the US has not done so already.

    Someone made the point above that Israel would attack to influence the US presidential elections. To elevate the prospect of war with Iran from hypothetical to actual. That's a disturbing thought.

    February 6, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  24. Brando

    "Our founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like." – OBAMA.

    February 6, 2012 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  25. Fair is Fair

    Israel won't tell him simply because they don't trust him to keep is mouth shut.

    February 6, 2012 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
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