Obama says Iran “year or so” away from nuclear bomb. Did he imply U.S. might hit Iran? Is it a credible threat?

US President Barack Obama being interviewed by Channel 2's Yonit Levy Photo: Courtesy US Embassy/Jerusalem Post

US President Barack Obama being interviewed by Channel 2’s Yonit Levy Photo: Courtesy US Embassy/Jerusalem Post

As his trip to Israel draws closer, President Obama gave an interview to Israeli Channel 2 news in which he spoke directly to the Iranian nuclear threat. He discussed how much time the world may have to prevent the mullahs from getting The Bomb.

One thing is clear: the President thinks there is still “a year or so” until Iran builds an operational nuclear bomb. By contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has said the “red line” will be reached by spring or summer, and both are coming up fast.

Some commentators believe the President implied in the interview the U.S. might hit Iran if other options fail. If he did, the real question is whether he is serious.

I‘m cautious, to say the least. After all, if Mr. Obama is serious about hitting Iran, why did he choose a Defense Secretary who once called such a strike a ridiculous “Alice in Wonderland” fantasyland? Why did the President pull a carrier battle group out of the Persian Gulf region?

I don’t want to be cynical. But at the moment, based on the President’s history, I’m skeptical that he will take decisive action. He was opposed to military force in Iraq. He’s been committed to removing U.S. forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Do we really believe he is going to start a war with Iran? To the contrary, I’m concerned the President is more likely to miscalculate and wait too long. That is what Damascus Countdown is about: a novel in which a fictional President who waits too long and the Iranians get not just one nuclear warhead but a small arsenal. Then Israel decides it cannot wait any longer and launches a massive preemptive strike that sets the whole region aflame, against the President’s wishes.

The stakes are high for the President’s upcoming visit. It will be fascinating to see what unfolds.

>> Obama Sets Timeline on Iran Nuclear Bomb: Ahead of Israeli Visit, U.S. Leader  Says Tehran Is a Year or More Away from Atomic Weapon; Netanyahu Has Different View (Wall Street Journal)

“US believes that right now it would take Iran ‘over a year or so’ to develop a nuclear bomb if it decided to do so, US President Barack Obama said in an interview aired Thursday, six-days before his much anticipated trip to Israel,” reports the Jerusalem Post.

“In the White House interview with Channel 2’s Yonit Levy — Obama’s first shot at talking directly to the Israeli public, something widely acknowledged as one of the main purposes of his visit – the president said the US did not want to go down to the deadline with the Iranians,” noted the Post.

“Obviously we don’t want to cut it too close,” he said.

“Obama deflected the notion that part of his message to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be to try and reign in any possible Israeli military action, saying ‘my message will be the same as before: If we can resolve this diplomatically, that is a more lasting solution; and if not, I continue to keep all options on the table….When I say all options are on the table, all options are on the table, and the US obviously has significant capabilities. Our goal is that Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel or trigger an arms race in the region that would be extremely dangerous.”

The Times of Israel is reporting that President Barack Obama implied in the interview “that should diplomatic efforts fail this year or early next year, America will be forced to carry out military action against Iran. Contrary to statements by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the moment of truth concerning Iran’s nuclear program was spring 2013, Obama said that the US estimates that Iran can produce a bomb only in about a year given its current rate of progress.”

>> Obama’s visit to Israel criticised as a ‘maintenance trip’ without peace plan: President’s three-day Middle East trip heavy on sight-seeing but will not involve any new drive for peace, White House confirms (The Guardian)

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