U.S. President Barack Obama says he believes Israel has not made a decision about whether to take military action against Iran’s nuclear program.
U.S. officials have been urging Israel, a key ally, to give more time for Western sanctions to pressure Iran into stopping a suspected drive for atomic weapons. Iran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful.
Speaking in an interview with U.S. network NBC on Sunday, Mr. Obama said the United States and Israel will work in “lockstep” to find what he hopes will be a diplomatic solution to the Iran issue. Israel sees a nuclear-armed Iran as a threat to its existence because of Iranian leaders’ frequent calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.
Mr. Obama said the United States will do “everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating a nuclear arms race in a volatile region.”
In recent weeks, Israeli leaders have warned Israel may strike if international sanctions fail to stop Iran’s nuclear program from soon reaching an advanced stage that makes it immune to an attack. Iranian General Hossein Salami said Sunday the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps will retaliate against any country whose territory is used to strike Iran.
Mr. Obama said there is no evidence that Iran has the “intentions or capabilities” to hit U.S. targets. But, he said any “additional military activity” in the Gulf region could affect oil prices and have a “big effect” on the United States.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said Sunday he will travel to the United States next month. Israeli officials told Western news agencies it is likely Mr. Netanyahu will meet Mr. Obama for their first face-to-face talks since September, when they met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. There was no confirmation from the White House.
Israel said Mr. Netanyahu will travel to Washington to address members of the pro-Israel lobby group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, (AIPAC), at its annual conference, which begins March 4.
Mr. Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday Israel’s only guarantee of survival in the face of a hostile Iran is to keep building its military and economic might. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said last week Israel is a “cancerous tumor that must be cut off.”
In another development, Israel replaced its air force chief on Sunday, assigning the post to Major-General Amir Eshel. Israel’s air force could be a major component of any Israeli strike on Iran.