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article imageObama says Iran nuclear bomb 'over a year or so' away

By JohnThomas Didymus     Mar 16, 2013 in World
In spite of the widespread skepticism in pro-Israel circles about the commitment of the Obama administration to a military option against Iran, there are increasing signs that the administration is preparing for military action.
Speculations about the Obama administration's preparation for war with Iran intensify as Israel seeks assurances of US support in the event that it decides to launch airstrikes against Iran's nuclear facilities. With Obama scheduled to begin his trip to Israel on March 20, it is expected that Iran's nuclear program and plans for a possible military strike will top the agenda.
In an exclusive interview with Israeli television Channel 2 aired Thursday, ahead of his March 20 visit to Israel, Obama, as Reuters observes, took the rare and thus significant step of offering an assessment of how close Iran was to crossing the "red line." He said that Iran is about a year away from developing a nuclear weapon and that although his administration still prefers a diplomatic approach the US was determined to do everything in its power to prevent it.
Some analysts note that with so much emphasis being placed on the supposed differences in the timelines of Obama and Netanyahu, everyone is ignoring the increasing convergence between both leaders about the military option.
According to RT: "For all the talk of a disconnect, Obama and Netanyahu are beginning to display some strong parallels in their position on Iran – despite what the US intelligence community thinks on the subject."
Analysts who emphasize the growing convergence between Obama and Netanyahu on the military option to ward off the Iranian nuclear threat point to the fact that Netanyahu's previous summer "red line" has since shifted after Iran changed its "mid-level uranium enrichment [plan] so that it does not accrue enough fuel for a potential first bomb," as Reuters reports. While Netanyahu has not publicly revised the spring-to-summer 2013 "red line" several Israeli officials have privately acknowledged it had been deferred.
The BBC reports that while Obama spoke of his preference for a diplomatic solution his emphasis on the "red line" criterion for a military action was more pointed. He said: "I have been crystal clear about my position on Iran possessing a nuclear weapon. That is a red line for us. It is not only something that would be dangerous for Israel. It would be dangerous for the world. Right now, 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. So when I'm consulting with Bibi (Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) as I have over the last several years on this issue, my message to him will be the same as before: 'If we can resolve it diplomatically that is a more lasting solution. But if not I continue to keep all options on the table.'"
Obama emphasized that an exclusive diplomatic option rests on assessment of how close Iran was to arming itself with a nuclear weapon: "What I have also said is that there is a window, not an infinite period of time, but a window of time where we can resolve this diplomatically and it is in all of our interests to do this. They (Iran) are not yet at the point, I think, where they have made a fundamental decision to get right with the international community... I do think they are recognizing that there is a severe cost to continue on the path they are on and that there is another door open."
Responding to a question whether he considered an attack on Iran's nuclear sites feasible, he said: "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."
With Netanyahu having revised his "red line" for military action and Obama having said pointedly that his administration's assessment is that Iran could cross the "red line" in "over a year or so" the differences between both parties over the urgency of a military strike are not as pronounced as they used to be.
Obama's comment that "we don't want to cut it too close" means that both leaders share common grounds more than ever before for discussion of timing of a military option during Obama's visit to Israel.
The Guardian reports that recently Vice-President Joe Biden assured the major pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC that the military option remains on the table for the Obama administration. He stressed that Obama's threats to use military force against Iran at the appropriate time were not idle threats or bluff.
Biden told his Washington audience: "The president of the United States cannot, and does not, bluff. President Barack Obama is not bluffing."
Doubts about the Obama administration's resolve to use the military option arises from the obvious fact that the administration should be reluctant to get involved in a new conflict after Iraq and Afghanistan. The view in some quarters is that the administration's threats are merely aimed at putting pressure on Iran to seek a diplomatic solution.
Some pro-Israel speakers at the AIPAC conference suggested that pursuing the military option need not get the US mired in a prolonged war. They argued that the goal of stopping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon could be achieved in an overnight surgical strike.
The extent to which military strategists in the Obama administration share the "overnight strike" assessment of a war with Iran is uncertain.
The Guardian reports that Netanyahu, addressing the conference via satellite link from Israel, said that while Iran had not yet "crossed the red line," it was getting very close and that the need for a military action was getting more urgent. He was skeptical that sanctions and diplomacy could solve the crisis.
Israel has made it clear that it will launch a military strike when it is convinced that Iran is about to obtain a bomb. It only wants an assurance of support from Washington which remains concerned about the prospects of a unilateral Israeli action.
More about Iran, Obama, Netanyahu, iran nuclear program
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