A week before he is due to arrive in Israel for first time as president, Barack Obama tells Channel 2 that a nuclear-armed Iran would pose a threat to American security interests and that all options remain on the table.
On the eve of his first visit to Israel as U.S. president, Barack Obama told an Israeli television network that “Iran possessing a nuclear weapon is a red line” for his administration.
In an interview with Channel 2 news broadcast on Thursday night, Obama said he will tell Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he is due to meet in Jerusalem next week, that if diplomatic efforts to thwart the Iranian nuclear program fail, he is ready to use other means prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
“I have been crystal clear about my position on Iran possessing a nuclear weapon – that is a red line for us”, Obama said. “It’s something that would not only be dangerous for Israel but would be dangerous for the world [and would] be dangerous for U.S. national security interests”.
Obama said the assessment of the American intelligence community is that Iran would need “over a year or so to actually develop a nuclear weapon,” if they decide to do so.
The U.S. president edged slightly closer to Netanyahu’s position on Iran when he acknowledged that his basic position is that “the issue of Iran’s nuclear capability” has implications for American national security interests and not only Israel’s security.
Obama made it clear he still wants to give diplomacy a chance and that the window for a nuclear deal is still open, although not indefinitely. “It is in all of our interests – Israel, the United States, the world and Iran’s – if we can resolve this diplomatically”, he said. “But obviously, we don’t want to cut it too close”.
The U.S. president also said that the international sanctions have damaged the Iranian economy but still haven’t convinced the regime to change course regarding the nuclear program.
“I do think that they’re recognizing that there is a severe cost for them to continue on the path that they’re on, and that there’s another door open”, Obama said. “So what I’m consulting with Bibi, my message to him will be the same as before: If we can resolve it diplomatically, that’s a more lasting solution, but if not, I continue to keep all options on the table.”
Obama was asked in the interview if he would be willing to order a military strike on Iran’s nuclear installations.
“When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table”, he said. “The United States obviously has significant capabilities … So when I say that we intend to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, that we’re going to pursue all avenues to make sure that that does not happen.”