Joe Biden delivers tough talk on Tehran’s nuclear ambition, but takes a different approach from Israel as he begins his four-day Middle East tour.
US President Joe Biden and caretaker Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid are in agreement that Iran’s nuclear programme must be stopped, but differ on how to go about it.
Addressing a joint press conference on Thursday, the two leaders described Iran as a threat, pledging not to let the country acquire nuclear weapons. But where the two countries diverge is how to act on their pledges. While Israel wants the US to use force to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, Washington believes diplomacy should be given a chance before resorting to a military solution.
Israel has in the past continued to carry out several covert sabotage and assassination operations inside Iran in an attempt to weaken the country’s nuclear goals.
In November 2020, for example, Iran’s most prominent nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed after his convoy came under attack.
Two years earlier, in January 2018, some men broke into a storage facility in an industrial district some 30 km from Tehran and took away with them secret nuclear archives without leaving a trace.
While Iranian officials kept quiet about it during the time, former Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu showcased those documents three months later in Tel Aviv, acknowledging it was an operation carried out by Israeli intelligence service Mossad.
Tel Aviv, a key ally of the US, considers Tehran to be its greatest enemy.
“They want to destroy the only Jewish state in the world. We will never let that happen,” Lapid said as he stood on the podium next to Biden during the presser.
“Words will not stop them, Mr. President. Diplomacy will not stop them. The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear programme, the free world will use force.
“The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table.”
The US president, however, did not reiterate this commitment, signaling a different view from Israel on the issue. He rather talked about not letting Tehran obtain a nuclear warhead, while not commenting on a programme that might be intended to develop one.
“Today, (we) discussed America’s commitment to ensuring Iran never obtains a nuclear weapon. This is a vital security interest to both Israel and the United States, and I would add, for the rest of the world as well,” Biden said.
“I continue to believe that diplomacy is the best way to achieve this outcome.”
Tehran, meanwhile, has reacted strongly to the joint US-Israel declaration against it.
“Any mistake on the part of the US or its allies in the region will see a harsh and regrettable answer from Iran,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.
“The interventions of foreign powers in the region only result in crises and destabilisation.”
While Israel is believed to have its own arsenal of nuclear weapons which it has never publicly acknowledged, Iran insists its nuclear programme is for peaceful purposes and it does not intend to acquire a warhead.
In 2015, Tehran signed an international deal with world power capping its nuclear projects with bomb-making potential. But in 2018, then-US President Donald Trump withdrew from the pact, deeming it insufficient.
Since then, Iran has ramped up some of its nuclear activities, putting a ticking clock on world powers’ bid to return to a deal in Vienna talks, which currently stands stalled.