Eager to reassure an anxious ally, President Barack Obama on Wednesday promised to work closely with Israel and do whatever is necessary to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, "the world's worst weapons." He also pledged to investigate whether chemical weapons were used this week in the neighboring Syria's two-year-old civil war.
Obama, after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said of Iran's nuclear ambitions: "We prefer to resolve this diplomatically and there is still time to do so." But he added that "all options are on the table" if diplomacy falls short.
"The question is, will Iranian leadership seize that opportunity," he added. The president said Iran's past behavior indicates that "we can't even trust yet, much less verify."
Netanyahu, at Obama's side for a joint news conference, said that while he appreciated U.S. efforts to thwart Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons through diplomacy and sanctions, he said those tools "must be augmented by a clear and credible threat of military action."
Although preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is a top priority of both Israel and the United States, Netanyahu and Obama have differed on precisely how to achieve that.
Israel repeatedly has threatened to take military action should Iran appear to be on the verge of obtaining a bomb. The U.S. has pushed for more time to allow diplomacy and economic penalties to run their course, though Obama insists military action is an option.