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.

Obama interviewed by Yonit Levy 370 (photo credit: Courtesy US Embassy)
Obama interviewed by Yonit Levy 370
(photo credit: 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 close."
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.
When 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.
Obama said 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 each other.
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.
"I'd 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 setting."
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.