Rice: ‘No daylight’ between US, Israel on approach to Iran

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Last week, Netanyahu raised pressure on the administration to declare “red lines” they would not let Iran cross with its nuclear program. Israel is increasingly worried that time is short to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and Netanyahu has expressed impatience with the White House plan to allow sanctions more time.

Tensions between the U.S. and Israel were further aggravated after suggestions that Obama had rebuffed a request for a meeting between the two leaders. While the White House denied the reports, Obama and Netanyahu spoke for an hour last week.

Rice on Sunday said the two countries were in “constant communication.”

“We're sharing our assessments every day. And our assessments, our intelligence assessments are very similar. Obviously, we share a grave concern about Iran pursuing a nuclear weapon. We are determined to prevent that from happening,” she said.

Appearing on CNN before Rice in a pre-taped interview, Netanyahu Sunday warned that Iran’s nuclear program was “moving rapidly” and the moment was “fast approaching” when the U.S. and Israel could lose the capability to stop Iran from going further.

Rice, though, split from Netanyahu over the immediacy of the threat. 

“They do not have a nuclear weapon. Our shared intelligence assessments is that there is still a considerable time and space before they will have a nuclear weapon should they make the decision to go for that,” she said.

She also defended the effectiveness of the sanctions saying that the international community had just imposed “the toughest sanctions that have ever been impose on a country.”

“Their economy is beginning to buckle. Their oil production is down 40 percent. Their currency has plummeted 40 percent in the last year. Their economy is now shrinking. And this is only going to intensify,” said Rice.

Republicans, including presidential nominee Mitt Romney, have called for tougher measures to halt Iran’s nuclear program. Romney has charged Obama on the campaign trail with being a weak ally to Israel. 

“Here we are in an open fight with the prime minister of Israel,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “We keep telling the Israelis not to attack; shouldn't we be telling the Iranians that we are together, and that there are boundaries that they can't cross? Instead, we're in a continuous public dispute with our closest ally in the region.”

McCain said Israel is worried that the Obama administration's red line is Iran's acquiring a nuclear weapon instead of simply the ability to produce one.

“That's a big difference,” McCain said. “And the Israelis' big fear is that at some point the Iranians are able to conceal and develop weapons to the degree that they, militarily, can't stop that. So then they'd have to rely on us. 

“Do you think that the Israeli government right now would readily rely on us? I don't think so,” he said.

On Sunday, Rice dismissed those criticisms and said the administration was committed to preventing a nuclear Iran.

“We think that there's still considerable time for this pressure to work, but this is not an infinite window. And we've made very clear that the president's bottom line is Iran will not have a nuclear weapon,” said Rice.

Julian Pecquet contributed