U.S. President Barack Obama said told CNN Tuesday that the U.S. had “absolutely not” given Israel a green light to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. “We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East,” Obama said in an interview in Russia.
The U.S. President echoed the State Department, whose spokesman Ian Kelly also denied that the U.S. had given Israel permission to attack Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
“I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action,” Kelly said. However, he also added that “we’re not going to dictate [Israel’s] actions. We’re also committed to Israel’s security. And we share Israel’s deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Obama and the State Department were backtracking after Vice President Joe Biden signaled during an interview with ABC Sunday that the U.S. would not stand in the way of an Israeli attack.
“Israel can determine for itself – it’s a sovereign nation – what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else,” Biden said, which many took to mean that the U.S. had given Israel a green light to attack.
“We cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination, that they’re existentially threatened,” Biden added.
Obama said Biden had not meant to give Israel a go ahead to attack. "I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can't dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels," he said.
Israel Afraid U.S. Will Say No
Two Israeli sources close to Prime Minister Netanyahu told the Washington Post Tuesday that Israel decided not to ask the U.S. for permission to attack Iran since it assumes the U.S. would say "no."
“There was a decision not to press this because it was probably inadequate for the engagement policy and what we know about Obama’s approach to Iran,” one source said.
The second source added that “it made no sense to press the matter after the negative response President Bush gave Mr. Netanyahu’s predecessor, Ehud Olmert, when he asked early last year for US aid for possible military strikes on Iran.”
In any attack on Iran, Israeli planes would likely have to pass through Iraqi airspace, which is controlled by the U.S. military. On Sunday, the London Times reported that Saudi Arabia had given Israel permission to use its airspace in an attack, but Netanyahu's office and Saudi Arabia quickly denied the report.