Biden tells Israel it would be safer with a new nuclear deal with Iran
By Peter Baker for the New York Times |
U.S. President Joe Biden sought to calm Israeli fears of a potential nuclear deal with Iran as he began a Middle East tour on Wednesday, promising not to give in to a key demand by Tehran and assuring Israelis that he would use force if needed to stop Iran from developing a bomb.
In an interview taped at the White House on Tuesday and aired on Israeli television on Wednesday night shortly after his arrival, Mr. Biden argued that Israel was made more vulnerable in 2018 when President Donald J. Trump withdrew from a nuclear agreement reached under the Obama administration.
It will be safer, he said, with a renewed accord.
“The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons, and if we can return to the deal, we can hold them tight,” Mr. Biden told Yonit Levi of Channel 12. “I think it was a gigantic mistake for the last president to get out of the deal. They’re closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before.”
Mr. Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday to open a four-day Middle East visit that will focus not just on trying to slow down Iran’s nuclear program but also on getting oil to the gas pumps of frustrated Americans and on improving relations with Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 50 years after making his first trip to Israel as a newly elected senator, Mr. Biden returned for the first time as president and wasted no time seeking to reaffirm his steadfast support for the Jewish state despite friction over his efforts to negotiate a new nuclear agreement.
The negotiations have yet to yield a new deal, and one of the missions of the trip will be to make sure the United States is on the same page with Israel, Saudi Arabia and other enemies of Iran if the talks fail. But Mr. Biden held out hope that they may yet succeed.
“I still think it makes sense,” he said. “We’ve laid it out on the table, we’ve made the deal, we’ve offered it, and it’s up to Iran now.”
He again rejected Iran’s demand that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps be taken off Washington’s foreign terrorist list as part of any agreement. Asked if he would hold to that position even if it meant no deal, Mr. Biden said, “Yes.”
And asked if he would use force against Iran if necessary to stop it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, he answered, “If that was the last resort, yes.”
Source: The New York Times