Obama: Iran a Year Away from Getting a Nuclear Bomb
Iran is "over a year or so" from getting a nuclear bomb, U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 News on Thursday, a week before his visit to Israel.
Obama laid out a clear timeline for Iran to acquire a military nuclear capacity, while insisting that the U.S. would not wait until the last minute to take action to stop it.
"We think that it would take over a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon, but obviously, we don't want to cut it too close," he said.
He emphasized that should diplomacy fail, all options remained "on the table" for stopping Iran.
"My message to (Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu) 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," said Obama.
Asked if there was a realistic option that he would order an attack on Iran's nuclear sites, he replied, "When I say that all options are on the table, all options are on the table and the United States obviously has significant capabilities.
"But our goal here is to make sure that Iran does not possess a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel or could trigger an arms race in the region -- that would be extraordinarily dangerous at a time when obviously there are already a lot of things going on," he said.
Iran possessing a nuclear weapons would be "a red line" for the United States, Obama said, insisting that he would have the necessary support within his cabinet should a military strike become necessary.
"I think my cabinet is prepared for a whole range of contingencies," he said, adding, "Secretary (of State John) Kerry and Secretary (of Defense Chuck) Hagel share my fundamental view that the issue of Iran's nuclear capability is an issue of U.S. national security interest as well as Israel's national security interest."
Obama said his trip to Israel and the Palestinian Authority is meant to "listen" to both sides and hear their views on how to move forward after over two years without peace talks.
"My goal on this trip is to listen. I intend to meet with Bibi (Netanyahu)... I intend to meet with Fayyad and Abu Mazen (PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas) and to hear from them what is their strategy, what is their vision, where do they think this should go?" said Obama.
"To Abu Mazen, I will say that trying to unilaterally go to, for example, the United Nations, and do an end run around Israel, is not going to be successful," he said.
"To Bibi (Netanyahu) I would suggest to him that he should have an interest in strengthening the moderate leadership inside the Palestinian Authority ...For example, making sure that issues like settlements are viewed through the lens of: Is this making it harder or easier for Palestinian moderates to sit down at the table," added Obama.
"I think we're past the point where we should be even talking about pre-conditions and steps and sequences. Everybody knows what's going to be involved here in setting up two states, side by side living in peace and security," he said.
"How we get into those conversations, whether they can happen soon or whether there needs to be some further work done on the ground, that's part of what I'll explore when I'll get there," he said.
In the same interview Obama said that he has no plan for pardoning Jonathan Pollard soon.
"This is an individual who committed a very serious crime," he said. "He has been serving his time. There is a justice system that allows for periodic review and the way I as president function here is to try and make sure that I am following the basic rules of that review.”