An interview with President Biden aired on Israeli TV Wednesday where he said the US would be willing to use force against Iran as a “last resort.”
The interview with Israel’s Channel 12 was conducted in Washington before Biden departed for Israel, and the broadcast aired the same day he arrived in the country. When asked if the US would use force against Iran’s nuclear program, Biden said, “as a last resort, yes.”
“Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon,” Biden said. While Iran has been stockpiling more uranium, none of it is enriched at the 90% needed for weapons-grade, and there is no indication Iran has decided to develop a bomb.
Israel often carries out covert attacks against Iran’s civilian nuclear program, but has been threatening to take more overt action lately and has held military drills simulating an attack on Iran. When asked if he received assurances from Israel that it wouldn’t act alone against Iran without notifying the US, Biden wouldn’t say. “I’m not going to discuss that,” he said.
A revival of the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, should alleviate any US concerns about Iran developing a nuclear weapon as it would put Iran’s nuclear program under stringent restrictions, but Biden has taken a hard line on the issue.
Biden told Channel 12 that he wanted to revive the JCPOA but said he would walk away from the deal if its restoration was contingent on lifting the terrorist designation of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The Trump administration designated the IRGC as a terror organization after pulling out of the JCPOA. The sweeping designation means any person that was ever in the IRGC is subject to US sanctions, even if they were conscripts that served in a non-combat role.
Ahead of recent indirect JCPOA negotiations with the US in Doha, Iran reportedly dropped its demand to lift the IRGC designation. But talks made no progress, and the US still accused Iran of making demands not related to the nuclear deal. The Biden administration has taken the position that any sanctions not related to Iran’s nuclear program or the economic benefits Tehran is supposed to receive from the JCPOA cannot be lifted.
But the Trump administration imposed an enormous number of sanctions on Iran after pulling out of the JCPOA. And during President Trump’s final weeks in office, his administration added more sanctions with the goal of preventing Biden from being able to rejoin the JCPOA.