President Obama: U.S. will launch own military strike to combat Iran's nuclear threat
Strong words come on eve of President's meeting with Israeli leader Benjamin NetanyahuBy Thomas M. Defrank AND Joseph Straw
March 5, 2012
WASHINGTON - President Obama summoned his inner-Rough Rider again Sunday, warning Iran's fanatical mullahs he'll launch his own military strike if Tehran doesn't ensure it is not trying to build nukes.
"Iran's leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment. I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon," the President told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
"And as I've made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests."
The strongly worded speech before the pro-Israel lobby came on the eve of the commander-in-chief's tense White House head-to-head with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who fears a second Holocaust should Tehran get the bomb.
Obama repeatedly mentioned what he described as his unswerving support for Israel, and decried that there has been "too much loose talk of war." He stressed the desire for a diplomatic solution, and told the world not to allow the GOP presidential hopefuls to cast him as weak.
It is Iran's leaders who must choose the correct course of action, he warned, making at least his second reference in a major speech to the legacy of America's Rough Rider President: "Now is the time to heed that timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt - speak softly but carry a big stick."
By declaring that Iranian nukes are as much a threat to America's national security as Israel's, Obama signaled to Netanyahu - with whom he has had a frosty relationship - that there's no need to consider a preemptive strike because the U.S. will lead the charge if necessary.
After all, experts told the Daily News, the U.S. has bigger bombs than Israel and provides billion for the Jewish state's security needs, and so will be blamed for a strike either way.
"The goal is the same: to make sure Iran never achieves a nuclear weapon," a former White House official said of American and Israeli security objectives. "The question is, where is the red line?"
American bunker-buster bombs, which could be used to strike at underground Iranian nuclear sites, are more powerful than Israel's, thus the former official added:
"Our red line is later than theirs."
The window for blocking Iran from building an atomic bomb could close when Tehran literally digs its nuclear program in deep enough to elude the penetrating bombs.
"And that's something that there's no doubt they will talk about," Rep. Eliot Engel (D-Bronx, Westchester) said of Monday's summit.
The rogue regime claims its nuclear program is purely peaceful, but has barred international inspectors while advocating the destruction of the Jewish state.
"They have the intellectual capacity to make a bomb," Larry Korb of the Center for American Progress said. "They don't have all the mechanical things in place to do it - nor have they made a decision to do it."
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said Iran could produce one within a year of setting out on such a course.
Rep. Pete King (D-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who also sits on the House Intelligence Committee, is less optimistic.
"I don't entirely agree," King said. "I think it can be faster."
Iran's nuclear program is so dispersed and dug-in that bombing could not destroy it, only delay it two to five years, ex-Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman Gen. James Cartwright said last week.
King said Obama shouldn't rule anything out - a point the President made Sunday: "I will take no options off the table," Obama said, "and I mean what I say."
Strikes that delay Iran's progress are among the options, King added, and could even compel Iran to abandon the program, as did Israeli strikes on nuclear sites in Iraq and Syria.
Obama allies on Capitol Hill say UN sanctions on Iranian oil need several months to kick in, and predicted the "bite" to Iranian revenues will force the mullahs to stand down on their nuclear ambitions or face social upheaval.