July 7th, 2009
03:15 PM ET
11 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. Fair is Fair

    Israel does not need a "green light" from the US. All they want is tacit approval. They got it.

    It's going to get VERY messy over there.

    July 7, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. jeff

    It ain't Obama's business what Israel does.
    He is a liberal and thinks talking with people who want to hurt you is the way to go.
    Israel can not wait months for the USA to work out their touchy feely feelings with Iran.
    Israel MUST protect themselves

    July 7, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  3. Really!?

    Anyone think they care what Obama says? Lightem up boys. Someone has to stand up to them, we won't. We will talk them to death with speeches.

    July 7, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  4. Brian is concerned

    Spin it how you want, VP has another case of Athletes Tongue

    July 7, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  5. Jimmy the Greek

    Dear lord – the incompetence shown by Obama!

    Yo Barry... Israel doesn't NEED a green light from you. They're not sitting at the Obama Traffic Signal.

    Israel will do whatever is needed to protect their people and their sovereignty. The LAST thing the people of Israel need is to rely on a leader named HUSSEIN to keep their interests at heart!

    July 7, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  6. RealityKing

    Israel is not fooled by America's chosen one.., or Russia.

    July 7, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. Gary Usher

    "The United States is "absolutely not" giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama told CNN Tuesday."
    It would seem that by the same token of thought present in this article that the President and Vice President are in lock step, and that a "Green Light" is not needed from the U.S. but rather a simple heads up with a little lead time will do just fine.

    July 7, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |

    Obama is blowing smoke, he doesnt want his muslim brothers hurt by Israel.

    July 7, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  9. Trade Freedom for Security, Lose Both

    Like Israel cares what Obama thinks.

    July 7, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  10. donttreadonme

    Israel you need to wait until they actually bomb you before you react.

    Remember Iran’s leaders said that they will destroy Israel and are now building Nuclear weapons.

    But don't fret – with Obama cutting out missile defense we will be hit by North Korea eventually.

    July 7, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  11. chicago4obama

    Israel has the right to defend itself from a country who made it very clear they intend to blow Israel off the map. I along with my many Jewish friends regret voting for President Obama. If he ran today he would not get the Jewish vote. He has now moved into the Jimmy Carter camp!

    July 7, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  12. Larry

    Everyone needs to relax.

    Biden was just making a statement.

    Perhaps it's time we stop following Israel blindly. That might ease some of the tensions in the area.

    It's time we stop interfering with other nation's affairs. Look where it got us. Who put us in charge of running the world.

    July 7, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  13. Miriam from Israel

    And why does our government need US permission to protect our country? Iran doesn't want to drive Americ into the sea..they wants to drive me and my fellow citizens into the sea.........

    July 7, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  14. Roy

    Perhaps it should be stipulated that is Israel invaled on it's own...it will be on it's own for the duration of the battle. Does Israel fight in Iraq and Afganistan with us? Is Israel beside us in South Korea?
    If you are our ally...BE our ally.

    July 7, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  15. Bass

    He has to protect the muslims. As a Jew its sad my people could not see through Obama – what a sham. At least Bush has guts. BO is possibly less courageous than Carter. giving it all away to the Russians now.

    July 7, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  16. Rob in Detroit Mi.

    I for one am tired of nation's attacking other country's unprovoked,if
    Israel bombs Iran then it will lead to trouble. for both our country's

    July 7, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  17. matt

    Ahhh....leave it to Joe for some sweet online fodder. Once again, Joe speaks and then Obama needs to publicly correct him. I'm glad Obama picked Biden as VP. My laughter helps me forget how Obama is robbing me blind.

    July 7, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  18. Tulsa

    to J.P.,
    Yes, it's tought to be diplomatic.
    Thankfully, we have an enlightened President.
    Did Northern Ireland's "troubles" end in a military victory for one side or another? No, but they did end. Now both sides are contributing to their country's growth and have both denounced the recent violence.

    It is a small matter compared to the middle east but it is a glimmer of hope.

    Be glad we don't have McCain and Palin in the White House JP, it would be far worse to have someone who does not want to talk to our
    adversaries than what we have. There is hope that at least we can be on the right path instead of the failed foreign policy of the Bush years.

    As far as Isreal caring what the US thinks..... I bet they would care if we cut off their aid. Of course it would be political suicide, but what the heck, might as well go out on the side of right.

    July 7, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  19. Rob in Detroit Mi.

    If Israel is attacked they have a right to Wipe their enemy
    off the face of the Earth. only if provoked.

    July 7, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  20. single mom

    As if Israel needs to ask permission or receive a 'green light' from the U.S., the UN, the Hague or any other country or organization. Israel knows better than any other country what it means to fight for survival or be extinguished as a race, culture and a country. I have no doubt that Israel will do what it feels necessary for its self-preservation.
    Whether the President of the United States approves or not.

    July 7, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  21. Trinity

    Why so many right wing Republican's support Israel is beyond me.

    July 7, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  22. Dan

    Israel doesn't need our permission to do anything. They are a sovereign country that makes its own decisions. I do have a question for donttreadonme. Exactly how many nuclear missiles do you think it would take to wipe out North Korea? If we cut our nuclear arsenal by 90%, we would still have more than enough weapons to destroy the world. The fear-mongering right need not worry.

    July 7, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  23. kathleen

    It is NOT up to Obama to decide what Israel does. what happened to the not meddling president? This guy cannot even stand up for human rights in Iran until Clinton gives him a kick in the butt yet he thinks he should have a say in what Israel does? Last time I looked Israel was a sovereign country. Butt out, Barack.

    July 7, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  24. Viet.Vet(DC)

    Its sad to read a person who claim to regret his Jewish vote for the President Obama, yet he would not acknowledge the fact that Isreal have been and continues to treat the Palistians like slaves and second class citizens under the guise of Security, however, no complaints and you wonder why they hate Iseral, rather you want to beleive it or not, Isreal could not sustain its self with the US support so get off the high horse and remember "God" don't like evil.

    July 7, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  25. obama can't find chechnya on a map

    I wonder since Messiah is in Russia if he will ask Russian President why its nation committed such horrible crimes in chechnya

    July 7, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
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