President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid during an arrival ceremony at Ben Gurion Airport on July 13, 2022 in Lod, Israel.
Amir Levy/Getty Images
- Biden told Israeli news that he’s prepared to use force against Iran as a “last resort” to prevent it from obtaining a nuke.
- Indirect talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal have so far failed to produce an agreement.
- Biden is visiting the Middle East for the first time as president this week.
President Joe Biden during a new interview with Israel’s Channel 12 said that the US would be willing to take military action against Iran as a “last resort” to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Israeli news anchor Yonit Levi noted that Biden in the past said he would “do anything” to ensure Iran doesn’t acquire nuclear weapons. Levi asked if that also meant the president would “use force” against Iran.
“If that was the last resort, yes,” Biden said, refusing to expand on whether the US would work with Israel in such an operation.
“But Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon,” he added.
—Yonit Levi (@LeviYonit) July 13, 2022
Biden has made reviving the 2015 nuclear deal a top foreign policy priority. The Obama era deal was designed to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon in exchange for relief from economic sanctions.
President Donald Trump withdrew the US from the deal in May 2018 and reimposed sanctions. Trump’s decision to pull from the pact, which went against the wishes of key US allies in Europe, was applauded by the Israeli government. But the move also ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran. Trump’s decision to order a drone strike that killed a top Iranian general exacerbated the contentious dynamic, at times raising concerns that a new war was on the horizon.
Iran has taken a series of steps away from the parameters of the deal since Trump withdrew the US from it, including increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium. This has raised concerns that Iran is far closer to being able to develop a nuclear weapon than it was when the 2015 deal was still fully in place.
Restoring the 2015 nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has proved to be an elusive goal for Biden. Indirect talks between the US and Iran have so far failed to yield an agreement.
During the interview, Biden made clear to Levi he was not willing to remove the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the US’s Foreign Terrorist Organizations list in order to break the deadlock and reach a deal with Iran. Iranian officials have demanded that the IRGC, an elite military force, be removed from the terrorist blacklist.
Biden is visiting the Middle East this week for the first time since he entered the White House. His trip, which will also include a visit to the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia, comes amid a rocky period in both US-Israel and US-Saudi relations.
Israel and Saudi Arabia, which both view Iran as a major threat, have been heavily critical of the 2015 nuclear deal, and Iran was expected to be a major topic of discussion during Biden’s trip.
In Washington, Biden has faced increasing pressure from members of his own party to be more critical of Israel in relation to the treatment of Palestinians.
Biden has also been criticized for visiting Saudi Arabia after vying to make the kingdom a “pariah” over the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Critics say Biden is undermining his pledge to prioritize human rights in his foreign policy by upholding the status quo with both countries, but some also say the president is being pragmatic by maintaining key relationships in a volatile region.