Biden: Nuclear deal on table; US waiting for Iranian response; but won’t wait forever
WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The issue of Iran topped President Joe Biden’s first stop—Israel—on his first trip to the Middle East as US president.
Biden will see the Palestinian leadership on Friday in Bethlehem before flying onto Saudi Arabia, where he will meet with the leaders of the Gulf states and the leaders of Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt.
Close ties between Biden and Israelis, but some differences on Iran
Relations between the US and Israel are close, as are Biden’s personal relationships with the Israeli leadership. As Biden noted, this was his tenth trip to Israel. His first visit was as a young senator in 1973, “just weeks” before the surprise attack that Egypt and Syria launched against Israel on October 6, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.
Golda Meir was Israel’s Prime Minister then. Biden met her, and he has met every Israeli prime minister since. Indeed, as a long-time senator and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden came into office with more experience in foreign affairs than any US president in the past 30 years—since George H. W. Bush; the collapse of the Soviet Union; and the end of the Cold War.
At a press conference following his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Biden explained that the two leaders had “discussed America’s commitment to ensuring Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon.”
Biden characterized that as a “vital security interest to both Israel and the United States and, I would add, for the rest of the world as well.”
But, as Biden significantly added, “I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome”—that is the renewal of the 2015 Iranian nuclear accord, which the Biden administration has been negotiating with Iran since April 2021.
Those talks have been suspended since March after Iran introduced a new demand: that the US remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from its terrorism list. One brief round was held last month in Qatar, but it ended in failure after just two days.
Asked, specifically, if the US had a deadline for concluding negotiations on reviving the nuclear deal, Biden declined to provide one—even as Iran is using the diplomatic stalemate to advance its nuclear program.
The text of an agreement, or at least a detailed outline, exists. As Biden said, “We’ve laid out for the leadership of Iran what we’re willing to accept in order to get back to the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—the formal name for the nuclear agreement], and “we’re waiting for their response.”
“When that will come, I’m not certain,” Biden continued. “But we are not going to wait forever.” Yet Biden’s answer contained no deadline, no date by which the US must receive an answer from Iran.
That has long been the US position, and it is unclear why Biden and his top aides think anything will change.
Israel Stresses Need for Credible Military Threat
This emerged as an issue in the discussions between Lapid and Biden, The New York Times reported on Thursday.
“Several times,” the paper stated, “members of Israel’s leadership publicly and privately urged that the United States develop a more credible military option to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities, as a way of convincing Tehran it must halt a rapidly accelerating program.”
In his joint press conference with Biden, Lapid repeatedly stressed the need for a credible threat of force in order to get Iran to accept the JCPOA.
“Words will not stop them, Mr. President,” Lapid said, addressing Biden. “Diplomacy will not stop them. The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program, the free world will use force.”
“The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table,” the Israeli Prime Minister affirmed.
Other Threats from Iran
It should also be noted that Biden cited other threats that Iran poses, in addition to the nuclear threat.
“We’ll continue to work with Israel to counter other threats from Iran throughout the region,” Biden said, “including its support for terrorism” and its “ballistic missile program,” as well as “the proliferation of weapons to terrorists and proxies like Hizbollah.”
However, Biden did not mention an issue raised twice earlier this week by his National Security Council Advisor, Jake Sullivan: Iran’s provision of armed drones to Russia for use in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Iran next week, as ties between Tehran and Moscow appear to be growing closer in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its increasing need for allies and support.