WASHINGTON (JTA) — A premature Israeli strike on Iran would have consequences for the United States, President Obama said.
"Israel is a sovereign nation that has to make its own decisions about how best to preserve its security," Obama said Tuesday at a news conference.
But he added: "This is not just an issue of Israeli interests, it is an issue of American interests. It is not just an issue of consequences for Israel if action is taken prematurely, there are consequences for the United States as well."
He cited economic repercussions, as well as the potential cost to the lives of U.S. troops in the region.
Obama was responding to a reporter’s question at a press conference that was schedueld to discuss housing policy.
Obama’s remarks came a day after a long meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that sought to coordinate Iran policy. At Tuesday’s news conference, Obama said that he had given "unvarnished advice" to Netanyahu during their meeting.
Obama said at the news conference that the idea that a decision to strike Iran must be made within two months "is not borne out by the facts," explaining that there was still a window of opportunity to stem Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program through diplomacy.
Reports have said that Israel may be contemplating a strike as early as the spring, and Israeli leaders have said that the country has until the autumn to launch a strike that could cripple Iran’s suspected nuclear weapons program.
Obama has stressed that all options are on the table for dealing with Iran. On Tuesday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta offered an explicit warning of possible military action.
"Military action is the last alternative when all else fails," Panetta said, addressing the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "But make no mistake, if all else fails, we will act."