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. Tom L

    "The fear-mongering right need not worry."
    Two questions:
    1. It doesn't make you nervous at all if Iran had a nuclear weapon? I think that's pretty naive.
    2. You accuse Republicans of fear mongering?? What about this stimulous package that had to pass? If we don't pass it now, the economy will spiral downward and the economic life as we know it will be in peril. That is the message that was conveyed by President Obama. Is that fear-mongering?

    Just curious...

    July 7, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. Reality

    Really? I thought Obama was preaching to America about the fact that America should NOT be meddling in other's affairs....to the point that he continues his "America Apology Tour" around the world. He preaches this but when it affects HIS agenda, it's a totally different story. If we don't need permission from anyone to defend ourselves, why does Israel need permission to defend itself. God be with you Israel, as you defend your sovereignty against your enemies.

    July 7, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. Emi

    You're right, Miriam, Israel doesn't need American permission to do your business, but the American government does have the right to its own opinion. What Israel ends up doing is up to your government. Hopefully things will done in a peaceful manner.

    July 7, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  4. Tulsa

    Why is it that we support Isreal? What do they do in return? They have been caught spying on us. They do not fight along side us. They contribute nothing to our goals as a nation and a people. They have broken their own agreements with the Palistineans. (No fan of the PLO, Hamas, etc... but the truth is the truth)
    So why should we give a flip about them? Why do we continue to send $3 BILLION each year to them?

    July 7, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  5. You had your window Repubs, and you blew it!

    We have pumped bilions of dollars into Israel. Now tell me when was the last time Israel put any money into US hands?

    Wow, some ally we have here. I have another word for it though: Mooch!

    July 7, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  6. Doesn't matter what Obama says.....

    Nobody listens to Obama anyway....not Iran....not N. Korea....not the Taliban....not Al Qaeda.....not Honduras......nobody...

    Israel will do what it has to do.

    July 7, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  7. John

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

    Who gave Bush the Green Light to Attack Iraq?

    Who gave Hitler the Green Light to Attack the World?

    Who gave Saddam the Green Light to Attack Kuwait?

    All of them Attacked without Green Lights.....

    July 7, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  8. HTA

    The US shouldn't send a green light because it will only alienate the people of Iran. Think through it logically. For the first time people are challenging the Ayatollah in a real way. Is now the time to issue a green light to galvanize the Iranian people against foreign powers?

    The pro-Israeli lobby needs to take a chill-pill on this. For the first time in a long time, we have a President who can think things through and act in the best interest of America.

    July 7, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  9. FreeNLovIt - Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed (1SPMI) of the gospel, for it is (3SPAI) the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (PAPMSD), to the Jew first & also to the Greek

    Peace.. peace.. give Obie time to put on his training wheels.... He didnt have a problem throwing Hillary under the bus and McCain over the rainbow, he wont have any problem FLOGGING rogue individuals......

    July 7, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  10. Me in Big D

    The US is going to be in deep do do when Nobama gets through "giving away the farm" to all the rogue nations! Geez, that man is scary!

    July 7, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  11. Dick

    Miriam from Israel – Your government doesn't need our permission to protect your country. It needs our military aid. So don't piss us off.

    chicago4obama – So Sarah Palin can count on the Jewish vote in 2012?

    July 7, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  12. Reality


    "Why is it that we support Isreal? What do they do in return? ...So why should we give a flip about them? Why do we continue to send $3 BILLION each year to them? CUT OFF THE AID. SPEND IT HERE."

    Er....uh....how about the fact that Israel has (until recently – now Iraq – thank you Prez Bush!) been one of the only democracies in the middle east. Do you realize that Israel has provided an open door for the U.S. to promote liberty and freedom throughout a middle east region soaked in oppression? We've been able to further the cause of liberty via Israel. I'd say that's worth 3 Billion a year. It definitely beats 1 Trillion in pork barrell spending under the guise of a Stimulus package. Sheesh – why so much hatred Tulsa?

    July 7, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  13. J in NJ

    Like they need or will ask out permission anyway!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 7, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  14. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Israel is anxious to whack Iran?!?!?!

    Recently when asked what would Isreal expect if Iran attacked them, Netanyahu stated he would expect the US to retaliate.


    Isareal is willing to initiate but not retaliate as long as we're there?!?!?!?!

    July 7, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  15. rebekah

    Israel are bullies..... people really need to start doing there home work on this country!

    July 7, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  16. rebekah

    funny too, that the Jewish people do not believe Jesus is the son of God like most in America ...yet we tend to stick up for them no matter what... but if you don't believe the religious establishment in the US your soul is going to hell!!! ....It boggles my mind

    July 7, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  17. richard

    Let us not forget that israel is the only place in the middle east that will allow us to use there air space or there ports and anything we need in case of a war israel has a army of about 100,000 how the heck do you want them to send troops they supply america witd information and anything else they can help with they ARE THE ONLY ALLY WE HAVE 0oVER THERE so I think 3 billion is a verrrrrrryyyyyy small price to pay for that don't you agree?

    July 7, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  18. Rose

    Reality said "how about the fact that Israel has (until recently – now Iraq – thank you Prez Bush!) been one of the only democracies in the middle east."

    Does a true democracy state that people born within the country are not full citizens, just because they happen to be born the "wrong" religion? Does a true democracy refuse provide two sets of laws for its citizens, based on religions? Does a true democracy refuse a citizen a vote due to the religion of that citizen?

    Israel is not, nor has it ever been a true democracy. Stop spreading the lies!

    July 7, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  19. Dale

    Israel needs no one permission defend itself.

    July 7, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  20. Darth Vadik, CA

    Who the heck are we to give anybody the green light?

    If the Israelis, really believe they could defeat Iran, then be my guest and try. The US should stay out of it and let Israeil do what they want to do. Believe me without the big bro over here Israel would cry uncle pretty fast. And the Likuds (or the Neocons of Israel) would find out pretty quick how a "preventive war" spells disaster, at the cost of many Iranianians, Israelis and Arabs.

    Remeber last war Israel had?

    They won the battle, but lost the war. And this was against a small group of fighters in Lebanon. Take on a nation the Size of Iran and you will find out why Persia has never been conquered and held conquered.

    But don't you dare come crying back to your big brother with the tail between your legs.

    July 7, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  21. Darth Vadik, CA

    Stop this crap that Israel are the only ally we have over there,
    that is BS, we have protected them \with money and arms for 50 years, and what did we get back?
    Their spies trying to steal our nations secrets.
    What you thought we'd forget about that, it was only back in 1990's

    July 7, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  22. Darth Vadik, CA


    If you would have read the correct translation of the Ahmadinajads speech istead of the falc\se version given to you by the stupid corporate media, you would know that Ahmedinajad said "wipe Israels government of the face of the earth, " but you're a right winger, you won't let little things like facts affect your judgment.

    July 7, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  23. moe

    I love Obama.
    He is an honest man who love peace.
    Israel is not a domecratic country, but they are an evil country that humilate the Palestinians for the last 60 years.
    Maybe Obama needs the Jewish vote, but he is a man of princible who knows what right and what is wrong.

    July 7, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  24. donttreadonme

    Let's not alienate the Iranians??? They are building nuclear weapons and have vowed to destroy Israel.

    Israel better wake up and hit those facilities before they are bombed off of the planet!

    July 7, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  25. Marc

    To everybody whom advocates a blind allegiance with Israel: Sabra and Shatila or 'How to let a bunch of wackos kill women and children, while doing nothing to save their lives, and then expect that you are still regarded as a Moral Standard...'
    And Sabra and Shatila are just ONE of the most famous case of abuse of Human Rights perpetrated by the Israeli Military Forces. Let's not forget that they tried to legalize torture back in the 90's and that 'wall to protect ourselves' that they are building.
    Israel is a democracy, an example for the Middle East and a trustworthy ally. But it has a large number of skeletons in its past.

    July 7, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
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