Obama: Iran more than year away from developing nuke
US President tells Channel 2 that Washington has over a year until Iran capable of building a nuclear bomb, but US "doesn't want to cut it too close"; says he has no plans to immediately release Pollard.
US President Barack Obama being interviewed by Channel 2's Yonit Levy Photo: Courtesy US Embassy
US President Barack Obama said that it would take Iran "over a year or
so" to develop a nuclear weapon, but added, "We don't want to cut it too
Speaking in an interview with Channel 2 aired Thursday,
Obama reiterated the suggestion that a US military strike on Iran's
nuclear facilities was a possibility.
"When I say all options are
on the table, all options are on the table and the US has significant
capabilities. Our goal is that Iran will not have weapons that threaten
Israel or lead to an arms race in the region," Obama stated.
asked why he believed sanctions against Iran would succeed where they
had failed with North Korea, Obama said that "Iran sees itself as a
broader world player than North Korea ever did." He added that Iran had a
lot to gain from complying with the West and could be a major world
player were it to act to remove sanctions against it.
that the perception by some Israel supporters that he was not pro-Israel
enough was, in part, politically motivated. "There are conservative
views in the US and Israel that may not jibe with mine. The attempt to
try and paint me as not fully there for Israel's security may have
served political purposes."
The US president said that he had
admired Israel throughout his career and thought that a majority of
Americans shared his view that Israelis have "the right to be secure in a
homeland for the Jewish people."
Addressing the perception that
he has a contentious relationship with Prime Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu, Obama stated that, "I've met with [Netanyahu] more than any
other world leader. We have a terrific, business-like working
relationship," adding that the leaders tended to be very "blunt" with
Obama seemed to confirm that he was not arriving in
Israel with a specific peace plan to offer Israel and the Palestinians.
He said that he planned to listen to Netanyahu, as well as the PA
leadership to see what ways they saw forward in the peace process. Obama
stated that the solution to the conflict was for both sides to
"recognize the legitimate interests of the other."
He said that
Netanyahu should work to strengthen the moderates in the Palestinian
leadership, such as PA president Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister
Salam Fayyad, who he praised as leaders that had committed to
non-violence and recognizing Israel.
Obama also addressed calls
for him to grant clemency to jailed Israeli agent Jonathan Pollard,
saying that he did not have plans to free him immediately, but he would
be afforded the same process of judicial review offered to all prisoners
in US jails.
"This is an individual who committed very serious
crimes," Obama said of Pollard. He stated that he understood "the emotions involved" in connection with the imprisonment of Pollard, but
added that there were many people in US prisons who committed crimes and
would also like to be freed.
The Free Pollard campaign responded optimistically to Obama's statements, saying that the president left room for hope when he said he had no plans to release the Israeli agent "immediately." They noted that recent statements by US Vice President Joseph Biden and then-secretary of state Hillary Cllinton were less positive.
"The feeling is that the president is really coming to listen to the Israeli public and its leaders," a campaign spokesman said, calling upon the public to continue to push for Pollard's release.
Obama, set to arrive in
Israel for his first visit as US president on Wednesday March 20, said
that he fantasized about roaming the streets of Tel Aviv in disguise.
love to sit at a cafe and just hangout, wear a fake mustache, wander
through Tel Aviv, meet with students at a university in an informal
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.