February 6th, 2012
11:08 AM ET
11 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. Gerald Hoefen

    Unfortently Israel am united states making fatel mistake trusting Iran to stand down its arms race. Once Iran delopes it arms only matter time it will use them as strike first against united states . Problem is are we going to wait for another pearal harbor an allow Iran to strike us first at home . Emagin what would happen if Iran deployed nuke on to city like nyc .If IRan had our power we would allready be dead so better to end this confrontation now on Irans turf then ours

    February 5, 2012 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  2. Keksi

    So Obama is saying afterall he is supporting Israel...all that 1967 borders and calling Netanyaho liar was setup for public to make it look like he opposing Israel.
    Just another Israel puppet.

    February 5, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  3. deb

    Although I'm a former Republican-I'M voting for this man in the next election! He's had a tough road–met the challenges of a multiple wars, a bad economy and a do-nothing congress that–for the most part–refused to compromise on ANYTHING although he tried to compromise on EVERYTHING..and we're FINALLY on the upswing. OBAMA 2012!!! It's the right choice!

    February 5, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  4. opiumpoem

    "Undecided" translates to "will attack in two weeks". This is Israel's MO, to allege indifference or indecision and then strike while their opposition believes that they are far from a decision.

    Thanks for giving us world war 3 guys.

    February 5, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  5. mipolitic

    the only one that has not made up his mind is obama , he is watching the polls for the answer

    February 5, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  6. bmull

    Struggling American families don't want the $3.5 billion they give to Israel each year spent on war with Iran. The US and Israel have nuclear weapons. Israel doesn't even allow international inspections. Iran does. Iran has a right to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.

    February 5, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  7. Ron

    Get him OUT he has failed the PEOPLE

    February 5, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  8. Charles Bowen

    Big "O" When Israel says it is undecided look for a strike in the near future. Nothing has changed in the Middle East since i was there in the 1970 for the Jordan Crisis ( Black September) .. Nobody Wants to see War but it's time to call the ball on this regiem in Iran (Persia) and let the Persians have their Country Back Minus the Rulers....Truth is always the best path! Charles Bowen Solomon Stone

    February 5, 2012 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  9. Chris, Austin

    If he can prevent an Iranian nuke and still keep us out of another war in the middle east, he does deserve a second term. And, arguably, that peace prize they gave him.

    Good luck, Mr. President.

    February 5, 2012 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  10. The Pope

    They're gonna drown 'em in chicken soup

    February 5, 2012 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  11. bribarian

    Obama is just a puppet of zionism. These nutcases are going to get america into another war.

    February 5, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  12. Patricksday

    Let the Bullies start their War but let THEM pay for it with their young soldiers and their military budget NOT the United States. Our Chinese Credit Card is over its limit. Amazing how the Republicans can always find money for WAR, but never for lifting up Humanity, only destroying it for Corporate Profits at the tax payers expense. But they blame the Poor not the Crooks on Wall Street who created the Largest Heist in American History destroying many lives for their own GREED.

    February 5, 2012 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  13. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    THIS is when differences should be decided by a poker game instead of saber rattling and pointing nukes.

    February 5, 2012 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  14. K

    I just have to say this, Obama is one hell of a President. Not only does he look the part, he doesn't blink when people try to take him to their level. He is a self made man and that is why he is a cut above Romney who was handed his money to him by his daddy.

    February 5, 2012 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  15. WAHEID

    "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." Very strongly disagree. The national interests of the USA is not - I repeat is not - at risk if Israel strikes Iran or vice versa. If Israel does not understand this, then somebody had better explain it to them quickly. It is certainly in our interest to work for a peaceful solution, but if the bullets or missiles start flying, that is no reason to send American troops to be wounded and killed. And if AIPAC isn't satisfied, then let them raise their own army. The mission of the Dept. of DEFENSE, is the defense of the U.S., not the defense of Israel. If Natanyahu and his defense minister want to start hostilities, they should be told that they are on their own.

    February 5, 2012 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  16. cola

    Why do they keep saying "this spring?" Does the weather have to be perfect, or do the planets have to be lined up in formation or something? Guess our leaders are preparing us to buy another Iraq story – this time in Iran. Tell us how we need to blow up their country and convert their government and religion. Gee whizz...guess it all end one day.

    February 5, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  17. best

    We should support peace efforts, i agree. i agree as well that iran is a big concern, and we should do everything like more sanctions, in a peacful manner. i dont think we should assist israel in an initial attack, but assist in any outcome to an attack, and proceed if iran attacks. on a different note-spitt romney is going to he77 for saying what he did about the poor, & just wait until that poor gets in line at the polls during the democratic races!

    February 5, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  18. Randy Johnson

    Kind of funny in a way. Israel was responsible for the most effective covert operation against a country (Iraq) who was on the verge of making nuclear weapons – (it was the 1981 raid and destruction of the Osirak reactor in Iraq). With little fanfare or a George Bush landing on an aircraft carrier waiving banners that said 'mission accomplished' – they just went in and got the job done. Now Americans are watching with baited breath speculating on when they are going to do the same to Iran – mainly because American policy – (at least to date) – is send in a few thousand troops to do the job. On the bright side at least Obama realizes that the USA has 'Navy Seals' – (at least a good start). Did George Bush even know they existed?? Well – whatever you decide little Israel – it will be now a lot more difficult because you don't have any element of surprise left. But – lets face it – you guys are a whole lot more innovative because you don't have around 6000 troups to waste just to do a job that a few bombs could do. Thanks in advance.

    February 5, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  19. Jackola

    It seems like it is too late now for Israel to do anything about Iran's nuclear program. The moment passed about 5 years ago.

    February 5, 2012 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  20. asdfasdf

    We give billions to this nation of wealthy europeans and we scheme on how to attack nations and get into yet another war. Let isreal do it. We are fighting enough wars for them.

    ron paul for president

    February 5, 2012 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  21. JLS639

    Yeah, until Iran proves it stops doing what there is no evidence that they are doing, then they have only themselves to blame, right? Remember "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence"? It is time for the media to start asking hard questions. In light of Iraq, we need to demand hard evidence before we get into international confrontations that can turn violent.

    February 5, 2012 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  22. FIELD1stSGT

    Well if you even a little bit of a President you will back Israel 100% in whatever they do. However how little faith I DO HAVE IN THAT

    February 5, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    If Israel is struggling with resting up, I would suggest they visit the Fukushima plant to perform military drils while helping further clean and stabilize the area, and listening-in on any lessons learned from the disaster.

    February 5, 2012 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  24. shagpal

    why should "we" care? let the warmonger jewbaggers fight their own fights.

    February 5, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  25. Fed-up American

    If Israel attacks Iran, the US WILL get sucked in. We all know this. If you think Iraq was a mess, wait until a country of over 75,000,000 (mostly Shia Muslim Persians) is attacked and occupied. How do you think China and Russia will react? It may be the start of World War III.

    I cannot believe I voted (and campaigned!) for this spineless jerk. Hope and change? I had more of each four years ago.

    February 5, 2012 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
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