Obama says pressure must be maintained on Iran, but Netanyahu favors an attack
U.S. President Barack Obama said he and French President Nicolas Sarkozy agreed during talks on Thursday on the need for pressure to be maintained on Iran over its nuclear program.
“We had the opportunity to talk about a range of security issues,” Obama told reporters following talks with Sarkozy ahead of a G20 heads of state summit in the French resort of Cannes.
“One in particular that I want to mention is the continuing threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. The IAEA is scheduled to release a report on Iran’s nuclear program next week and President Sarkozy and I agree on the need to maintain the unprecedented pressure on Iran to meet its obligations.”
Meanwhile, an Israeli official has said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to persuade his Cabinet to authorize a military strike against Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program - a discussion that comes as Israel successfully tests a missile believed capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to Iran.
It remained unclear whether Israel was genuinely poised to strike or if it was saber-rattling to prod the international community into taking a tougher line on Iran. Israeli leaders have long hinted at a military option, but they always seemed mindful of the practical difficulties, the likelihood of a furious counterstrike and the risk of regional mayhem.
Wednesday’s developments unfolded as the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to focus on the Iranian program at a meeting later this month.
The West wants to set a deadline for Iran to start cooperating with an agency probe of suspicions that Tehran is secretly experimenting with components of a weapons program.
Israeli leaders have said they favor a diplomatic solution, but recent days have seen a spate of Israeli media reports on a possible strike, accompanied by veiled threats from top politicians.
It is generally understood that such a momentous decision would require a Cabinet decision. Israel's 1981 destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor was preceded by a Cabinet vote.
Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev refused to comment on the issue but did say there is a “decision-making process which has stood the test of time. ... There have been precedents, and the process works.”
With most of its population concentrated in a narrow corridor of land along the Mediterranean, Israel’s homefront could be vulnerable to a counterattack.
Iran’s military chief, Gen. Hasan Firouzabadi, said his country takes Israeli threats seriously and vowed fierce retaliation.
As for the Israeli public, a poll showed that Israelis are virtually evenly divided on whether the Jewish state should launch a pre-emptive strike on Iran, with 41 percent in favor and 39 percent opposed, a poll published on Thursday found.