President Barack Obama said on Sunday that Israel has not yet decided how to respond to concerns about Iran's nuclear program and said there was no evidence that Iran has the “intentions or capabilities” to wage attacks on U.S. soil.
Obama told NBC television in an interview from the White House on Sunday that Israel is “rightly” very concerned about Iran's nuclear program. He said both Israel and the U.S. “believe that Iran has to stand down.”
Last week, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta wouldn't dispute a report that he believes Israel may attack Iran this spring in an attempt to set back the Islamic republic's nuclear program.
When asked about a potential attack by Iran on the U.S., Obama said, “We don't see any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities right now.”
Obama, who is up for re-election in November, has ended the U.S. war in Iraq and is seeking to wind down combat in Afghanistan amid growing public discontent about American war spending at a time when the economy remains weak.
The Democrat made clear on Sunday that he would not like to see more fighting in the oil-producing Persian Gulf region.
“Any kind of additional military activity inside the Gulf is disruptive and has a big effect on us. It could have a big effect on oil prices, we've still got troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran, and so our preferred solution here is diplomatic,” he said.
Republican Mitt Romney, the top contender to oppose Obama in the Nov. 6 presidential election, said he would start his presidency by imposing “far tougher” sanctions on Iran and back up American diplomacy with “a very credible military option.”
Tehran says its nuclear program is meant to produce energy, not weapons, but has not responded to the latest Western overtures for talks and has threatened to retaliate against U.S. and European sanctions affecting its finances and oil sales.
In the NBC interview, Obama stressed he was not taking any options off the table to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power. “We're going to do everything we can to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon and creating an arms race - a nuclear arms race - in a volatile region,” he said.