Mar. 4 - Monday's meeting between President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is expected to be dominated by differences on Iran approach. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
A day before what could be the most consequential meeting of U.S. and Israeli leaders in years, aides to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are scrambling to bridge stark differences over what Washington fears could be an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear sites. Israeli officials say Netanyahu is hoping to press Obama to more forcefully declare "red lines" that Iran must not cross in its nuclear program, even as speculation mounts that the Jewish state could act militarily on its own in coming months. Brian Katulis is with the Center for American Progress. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BRIAN KATULIS, SENIOR FELLOW OF THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS SAYING: "I think Israel is looking for reassurance from the United States that we have its back. I think President Obama is likely to send that message, that we are going to be with you." Netanyahu will also be looking for stronger language against Iran that goes beyond the quote "all options are on the table" mantra on U.S. intentions. On Friday, President Obama issued his most direct threat yet of U.S. military action against Iran telling the Atlantic Magazine . "As president of the United States, I don't bluff," - (SOUNDBITE)(English) BRIAN KATULIS, SENIOR FELLOW OF THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS SAYING: "I think President Obama is going to say, 'Look we don't bluff, we actually do what we say we will do.' He may even cite what we did with Osama Bin Laden and other things. This is a President that will undertake risky operations if necessary. I think the key debate here is whether it is necessary." Washington has been working to convince the Israelis that a go-it-alone attack would cause only a temporary setback to Tehran's nuclear ambitions while possibly plunging the already-volatile Middle East into chaos. Further complicating Monday's White House talks is a trust deficit between the two men. (SOUNDBITE)(English) BRIAN KATULIS, SENIOR FELLOW OF THE CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS SAYING: "I think both of these leaders need to rise about any sort of personal differences that they have to stay focused in the fundamental task and the task is making sure our countries are strategically aligned. making sure that nobody surprises anyone else here, because the Middle East is a tinderbox right now. Iran is a threat, but we need to actually be aligned with our allies and not be surprised by our allies in dealing with these threats." A source close to the administration's thinking on Iran said the president might try to placate some of Netanyahu's concerns in private and could also pledge even more sanctions to tighten the vise on Tehran. Deborah Lutterbeck, reuters