File photo of President Barack Obama. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
JERUSALEM (AP) — Iran is about a year away from
developing a nuclear weapon and the United States remains committed to
doing everything in its power to prevent that from happening, President
Barack Obama said in an exclusive interview aired Thursday on Israeli
TV. Just days before he is to arrive in Israel for his first presidential
visit, Obama told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that while he still prefers
diplomacy over force, but that a nuclear Iran is a “red line” and all
options remain on the table to stop it. “Right now, we think 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,” he said. “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.”‘
The timeline for action against Iran has been one of the most fraught
disputes in an already tense relationship between Obama and Netanyahu.
Israel has repeatedly threatened to act militarily should Iran appear to
be on the verge of obtaining a bomb, while the U.S. has pushed for more
time to allow diplomacy and economic sanctions to run their course. Obama’s forecast gives more time than that of Netanyahu, who has
signaled that the coming months present a point of no return in dealing
with Iran. The American president nonetheless took a stern tone toward Iran in the half-hour long interview. “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, he said.
“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.” Israel considers a nuclear-armed Iran to be an existential threat,
citing Iranian denials of the Holocaust, its calls for Israel’s
destruction, its development of missiles capable of striking the Jewish
state and its support for hostile Arab militant groups. Tehran says its
nuclear program is peaceful and designed to produce energy and medical
isotopes, a claim that Israel and many Western countries reject. Obama said that a nuclear Iran would also be “dangerous for the
world. It would be dangerous for U.S. national security interests.” In the interview, Obama also spoke about his relationship with
Netanyahu — claiming it is not as tense as reported — and encouraged
Israelis and Palestinians to resume peace talks. He also said he had no
immediate plans to release convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, whom Israel
has been pressuring to set free after 28 years in prison for spying for
them. Obama arrives in Israel Wednesday for a three-day visit that is seem
primarily as a means to convey the closeness of the U.S.-Israel
US to deploy more ground-based missile interceptors as North Korea steps up threats
Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images
Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to announce the deployment of 14 new
missile interceptors at a briefing at 3 p.m. ET in Washington.
By M. Alex Johnson, staff writer, NBC News
U.S. is deploying 14 new ground-based missile interceptors in Alaska to
counter renewed nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran, Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel said Friday.
The new interceptors will be based at Fort Greely, an Army
launch site about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, and are
projected to be fully deployed by 2017, Hagel said. The additions will
bring the U.S.-based ground interceptor deployment from 30 to 44,
including four that are based in California. That will boost U.S. missile defense capability by 50 percent and
"make clear to the world that the United States stands firm against
aggression," he said at a briefing at the Pentagon.
announcement comes as North Korea has been making bellicose threats to
void the armistice that ended the Korean War and launch a nuclear attack
on the U.S. The U.S. and South Korea began annual military drills this week despite the North Korean threats.
Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is trying to prove his strength, causing
experts to worry that Pyongyang's threats could get out of control.
NBC's Andrea Mitchell reports.
Hagel said the U.S. would
also shift some "resources," which he didn't specify, from the delayed
Aegis anti-missile program in Europe to U.S.-based defenses, saying the
Aegis program was "lagging" because of reduced congressional funding.
And he reiterated previously announced plans to add a second U.S. anti-ballistic missile radar installation in Japan.
all of the moves together, "we will be able to add protection against
missiles from Iran sooner while also proving protection against the
threat from North Korea," he said.
Even before the announcement,
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., a member of the Armed Services Committee,
criticized the news, saying it was too little and too late. "I
applaud the Obama administration's decision, but it shouldn't have taken
the predictable saber-rattling from North Korea to bring this about,"
Ayotte said in a statement Friday.
Pointing to Iran's nuclear
program, Ayotte called on the Obama administration to "move
expeditiously to construct an East Coast missile defense site." "Americans
living in the Eastern United States should have the same level of
missile defense protection as those in the West," she said.