Nightly News | February 20, 2012
>>> now to the growing tensions over iran . a component of this actually as u.n. nuclear inspectors return to that country, the question fuelling high anxiety in washington and around the world is will israel attack iran's nuclear program . the u.s. is working hard to try to make sure that doesn't happen, but israel may not be on the same page. our chief foreign affairs correspondent andrea mitchell is in our d.c. newsroom. you and i have been told by mostly different officials, some of them the same, that every time we see a delegation from the u.s. fly to israel it's because this has reached another critical point in pressing their case. here we are again.
>> reporter: here we are again indeed. as you know so well, the administration is back to reshuffling back and forth to israel almost pleading with officials there not to attack iran , arguing that economic pressure has finally gotten tehran to agree to nuclear talks. in tehran , tel aviv and washington, high stakes diplomacy to try to prevent a military confrontation that could engulf the middle east . in israel , president obama 's national security adviser tom donaldan is telling benjamin netanyahu not to attack iran . for the second time this month u.n. nuclear inspectors are in iran .
>> we hope to have a couple of good days in tehran .
>> reporter: the pentagon is saying what the generals are telling israel .
>> a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn't achieve their long-term objectives. we are of the opinion that the iranian regime is a national -- rational actor. for that reason, i think we think the current path we are on is the most prudent path at this point.
>> reporter: prime minister netanyahu and president obama who have had a bumpy relationship will meet again at the white house in two weeks.
>> it is clear the administration doesn't want to see military action . better not risk the consequences of this action when there is still time to allow these pressures to build and to persuade the iranians not to weaponize.
>> reporter: how would israel strike iran ? there are three routes. the most direct is over iraq. the least likely is through turkey or israeli jets could fly south over saudi arabia , but it would not be a quick or easy mission. israel would have to fly 1,000 miles to reach its targets, carrying 5,000-pound bombs to penetrate iran 's underground nuclear facilities . refuelling mid-air would be a challenge. but israel could be counting on the u.s. getting drawn into the conflict and coming to its aid.
>> they may be counting on this triggering a wider war with the iranians overreacting against the saudis, the u.s. armed forces , turning off oil out of the gulf. it may be a political calculation by the israelis.
>> reporter: the u.s. is warning israel that military action may not work. iran's nuclear program could survive an attack, but israel said its survival is at stake and doesn't believe diplomacy and economic pressure can stop iran from going nuclear if it decides to.
>> all right. andrea, we'll stay on it. andrea mitchell in our d.c. newsroom. thanks.