Biden dodges questions on Iran’s nuclear program as Israel’s leader calls for action
JERUSALEM — President Biden on Thursday dodged questions about whether he would set a deadline for stalled negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program following a meeting with Israel’s prime minister, who urged the United States to put a “credible military threat” on the table against Iran.
Biden, who said in a recent interview that the U.S. would consider using military force ‘as a last resort,’ declined to elaborate on any timeline for diplomatic efforts in public after his session with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid.
“We’ve laid out for the people, for the leadership of Iran, what we’re willing to accept now to get back in the JCPOA,” he said about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the Obama-era nuclear agreement abandoned by the Trump administration to an Israeli journalist.
“We’re waiting for the response. When that occurs, when that will come, I’m not certain. But we are not going to wait forever,” he said, after signing a joint declaration with Lapid that committed the United States to “never” allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.
The document signed by both leaders also said the United States “is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome.”
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Lapid used his opening remarks moments earlier to call on Biden to put a ‘credible’ military threat on the table against Iran, arguing that diplomacy alone would not be sufficient to bring Iran back into the nuclear deal.
“The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program, the free world will use force,” Lapid said.
But he also attempted to minimize disagreements between the two countries over Iran’s nuclear program, on the second day of Biden’s visit focused on strengthening ties with Israel and improving the country’s relations with Arab countries that are also aligned against Iran.
“We have an open discussion about what is the best way to deal with it, but I don’t think there’s a light between us in terms of these are all means to an end,” Lapid said of Iran. “We cannot allow Iran to become nuclear.”Lapid’s call on the U.S. follows President Biden saying the U.S. would use force against Iran’s nuclear program ‘as a last resort’ during an Israeli TV interview taped before he left Washington.
Many Israeli leaders are opposed to the Iran deal and believe diplomacy alone will not constrain Iran’s nuclear program — seen in Israel as an existential threat to the country — or its support for proxy groups such as Hezbollah that are also in conflict with Israel.
During the TV interview, the president declined to say whether Israeli leaders have committed to keeping the U.S. informed of any plans for a military strike targeting Iran’s nuclear program.
“The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons,” Biden said during the interview. “It was a gigantic mistake for the last president to get out of the deal. They’re closer to a nuclear weapon than they were before,” he said.
A diplomatic resolution is “the best option,” according to the Biden administration’s Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this spring. He said military intervention is not off the table, though.
Republicans in the House and Senate — along with several Democrats — are skeptical of the agreement, making the approval of any potential deal with Iran a challenge for the Biden administration on Capitol Hill.Earlier this year, the White House said Iran’s nuclear advances would make rekindling such a deal with the country “impossible” if the U.S. does not reach one soon.