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.

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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. AjayVee

    Obama: Israel undecided on attack against Iran, blah, blah!
    Never believe anything until a politician officially denies it.

    February 5, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  2. ken penethby

    "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.

    What an ignorant comment from a US President! The Arab world knows the US covertly helped Israel acquire nuclear weapons – an act which created the need for other countries in the region to seek buclear arms as a deterrent.

    February 5, 2012 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  3. Marushus

    Israel better not drag Americans in to another war. Afghanistan and Iraq is more then enough. We do not need another 9/11 to start a war with Iran.

    February 5, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  4. Johnnie

    The President's statement sounds like a classic trial balloon. We are being prepared for the attack, just be bringing-up the "possbility", just like Colin Powell in May 2002 regarding Iraq's eventual strike in early 2003.

    February 5, 2012 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  5. Loathstheright

    A fire so bright you might be able to see it from the USA...oh, wait, that's radiation....never mind.

    February 5, 2012 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  6. clark1g

    the economy has improved by the efforts of Americans and they have overcome both the President's policies and the economic downturn. President Obama deserves only one thing from the voters ... he deserves to be fired.

    February 5, 2012 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  7. DorisV

    Obama needs to exert strong pressure to keep Israel from attacking Iran. First, no more money or weapons from the US to Israel. Such a nation as Israel has nuclear arms and has done such ugly stuff in their short history. Used to be pro-Israel but not for sometime.

    February 5, 2012 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  8. ErrrAh

    Since when does the master tell the slave his intentions?

    February 5, 2012 10:27 pm at 10:27 pm |
  9. sara

    Yes YOU do, Mr. President. Considering the Mess handed to you and the "games" being played on the future of our country with one objective from the other party, you have my vote. Watching that commercial with Clint Eastwood in it...about or countrys Auto Industry...during the super bowl, Made me proud! I stopped being afraid and I remain HOPEFUL that this country will be great again with your leadership.

    February 5, 2012 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  10. chicago7

    Great. Just what we need, another war on yet another front. We're still acting like we can afford to buy whatever we want. We can't afford it anymore! Israel is being led by a Bush Jr. type who loves rattling his sabre at any provocation. I don't want to see our troops over there any longer! We and Israel had damned well better find a way to talk this through, or support sanctions, or whatever it takes to avoid more billions THAT WE DON'T HAVE wasted and more American soldiers dead defending somebody else's cause. Enough. Is. Enough.

    February 5, 2012 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  11. Furious Styles

    It would be good to solve this diplomatically. Not a good idea to let this get out of hand. You don't want Obama's SEAL team 6 to come looking for you.

    February 5, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  12. Sage Sophos

    God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Blessed be the Lord my strength which teacheth my hands to war and my fingers to fight.

    February 5, 2012 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  13. Kevin

    The only thing Obama is worried about is his own job - another photo op for this incompent clown!

    February 5, 2012 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  14. BeverlyNC

    I have no worries. President Obama can handle it. Just like he has handled all other foreign policy issues successfully and brilliantly. We already have a real leader. Let the Republicans just keep running around destroying themselves so we can wipe all of them out of Congress so President Obama can have real servants of the People to work with to finish the recovery of the Bush economic disaster.
    I stand with my President. The only intelligent choice for America's future and the People's recovery.

    February 5, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  15. waitwhaaat

    I've been waiting my whole life for this war. Let's do it already. Let's get all the hate out of our system.

    February 5, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  16. jack

    What gives Israel, a nation with dozens of nuclear weapons, the right to attack another nation in the process of building one. I guess it is the same thing that gives them the right to build settlements in areas that should belong to the Palestinians. Might makes right.

    February 5, 2012 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  17. Demitrius Johnson

    Perhaps Obama has told the Neo-crazies that there will be no WWIII on his watch?

    February 5, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  18. larry august

    if i were Isreal, i wouldn't attack Iran because you cant count on obama backing Isreal, he is a muslim sympathizer, Isreal should hold off until we get a new president in nov. 2012, obama cant be trusted

    February 5, 2012 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  19. Ed Sr of Dallas Tx

    If Israel attacks Iran it will be the LAST nail in Obama's political coffin! He knows it! He will be blamed although he is not calling the shots.

    February 5, 2012 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  20. Davidr

    "...we have to return to old-fashioned, American values," says Obama. You mean such as encouraging Israel to use American might against Iran, or anyone else Israel decides is their enemy?

    February 5, 2012 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  21. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Obama shouldn't be speaking for Israel. The Israelis have shown remarkable restrain in not attacking the Iranians and all of their terrorist allies. The fact that the Iranians have, on multiple levels and people, called for the destruction of another member of the world community. This is unacceptable behavor of a civilized state. It just shows that these people (the Iranians) don't follow the rule of law. There was at least one election that we know of that wasn't followed; who knows what other of their own rules haven't been followed. This is in stark contrast to Israel who follows the rule of law. The army has been forced to change policy because of the courts. Show me when the Iranians have done that.

    February 5, 2012 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  22. Roy

    OH boy, here we go with this George W Bush crap again.

    February 5, 2012 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  23. Davidr

    "...we have to return to old-fashioned, American values," says Obama. You mean unconditional support for a certain rogue state in the Middle East?

    February 5, 2012 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    “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.

    This is the same thing Bush did. He acted like he was giving Iraq a chance. But there was never any real chance to avoid war. That whole thing is a show to make America look reasonable. Lol, America...reasonable. Murdering hundreds of thousands of people because you can is reasonable. Americans not paying any attention is reasonable. This place is a madhouse.

    February 5, 2012 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  25. bob

    The world has more to fear from the USA and Israel than from Iran.

    February 5, 2012 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
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