WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama on Sunday sought to reassure Americans over the threat posed by Iran, saying the United States was working “in lockstep” with Israel to bring Tehran to heel over its suspect nuclear program.
Obama said the Islamic republic was “feeling the pinch” of ever tougher sanctions imposed by the international community, and dismissed concerns that Tehran could retaliate by striking US soil, saying such a strike was unlikely.
“I’ve been very clear — we’re going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating a nuclear arms race in a volatile region,” Obama said in a live pre-Super Bowl interview with NBC.
“We have mobilized the international community, in a way that is unprecedented. They are feeling the pinch. They are feeling the pressure,” he said.
“My number one priority continues to be the security of the United States. But also, the security of Israel. And we’re going to make sure that we work in lockstep, as we proceed to try to solve this — hopefully diplomatically.”
When asked if he believed the Jewish state would launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear installations, Obama replied: “I don’t think Israel has made a decision.”
Asked if Washington would be consulted first, he said he couldn’t go into specifics but added that the two allies had “closer intelligence and military consultations” than ever before.
On whether Iran could possibly strike US targets in retaliation, Obama said: “We don’t see any evidence they have those intentions or capabilities.”
He added: “Again, our goal is to resolve this diplomatically. That would be preferable. We’re not going to take options off the table, though.”
The US president cautioned that “any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive. And has a big effect on us. It can affect oil prices.”
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was due in Washington on Monday, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit the United States in early March, though a meeting between Netanyahu and Obama was not yet confirmed.
Iran maintains that its nuclear program is for strictly peaceful purposes.
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