WASHINGTON -- Outgoing Republican Sen Richard Lugar of Indiana offered measured support for President Barack Obama's handling of Iran's nuclear quest, in the face of intense lobbying from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in an interview with Bloomberg television on Friday.
"I understand we want to draw red lines," Lugar said in the interview set to air this weekend. "I understand even some wanting to go to war immediately to stop it where it is and so forth. But even within Israel, the reports are that the debate with Netanyahu is very intense. The military is saying hang on here."
Netanyahu on Thursday went before the United Nations General Assembly and called once again for the international community to draw a clear "red line" on Iran's nuclear energy development that would justify a military attack. At one point in the speech, he used a cartoonish drawing of a bomb and a broad red marker to illustrate his point.
The Obama administration has said repeatedly it is in close consultation with the Israelis, but do not yet believe that an Iranian nuclear weapon is imminent or that a military strike is justified.
But many Republicans, including the presidential candidate Mitt Romney, have leaped on the apparent rift between Obama and Netanyahu over the issue, claiming that Obama had thrown a close ally "under the bus."
Lugar, known as a bridge-building and centrist leader on foreign policy for many years before his defeat this year to a Tea Party-backed candidate, cautioned that any rush to war should take into consideration the inevitable consequences.
"Leaving aside a unilateral attack without American approval or support, the fact is, we're really going to have hell to pay," Lugar told Bloomberg. "They [the Iranians] will come back on us, and the implications for the Israeli people here are very severe."