Biden: Obama 'not bluffing' on stopping Iran nukes

US VP tells AIPAC that US committed to preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapon; says of peace process: It takes two to tango.

Joe Biden at Conference on Security Policy in Munich 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Michael Dalder)
Joe Biden at Conference on Security Policy in Munich 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Michael Dalder)
WASHINGTON – US Vice President Joe Biden told a packed American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference on Monday that America’s commitment to Israel remained ironclad, and implied that the White House is preparing for the possibility of confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program.
“President Barack Obama is not bluffing,” Biden said of America’s stated commitment to prevent rather than contain an Iranian nuclear weapon.
While he stressed that the US is not looking to go to war and there is still time for diplomacy to work, Biden also said it was important to pursue negotiations so that the international community would know the US had tried to avoid resorting to military action.
“God forbid the need to act occurs, it’s critically important for the whole world to know we did everything in our power to avoid confrontation,” Biden said. “It’s important that the whole world is with us.”
The administration’s firm position, he emphasized, “is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, period.
End of discussion. Not contain, prevent.”
Biden spoke of Obama’s anticipation of his trip to Israel later this month, which will be his first as president, but gave few details about the visit.
He did, however, speak of America’s continued interest in peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We make no apologies for continuing to pursue that goal,” the vice president said.
“We’re under no allusions about how difficult it will be to achieve.”
“It takes two to tango, and the rest of the Arab world has to get in the game,” he said to applause.
He reiterated several times the importance the US places on its relationship with Israel and preserving the Jewish state’s security, often to standing ovations, but did give a nod to some of the tensions that have characterized the relationship between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Obama during his first term.
“We’ve always disagreed on tactics, but ladies and gentlemen, we’ve never disagreed on the strategic imperative,” Biden said.
Biden also expressed his connection to Israel by saying he was sorry not to be going to Israel in the days leading up to Passover, as Obama is.
“I have to admit I’m a little jealous that he gets to be the one to say, ‘This year in Jerusalem,’” he said.
Netanyahu, who followed Biden in addressing the approximately 13,000 AIPAC activists at the three-day policy conference, also referenced the well-known conclusion to the Passover Seder in his remarks, which were delivered from Israel via video-link, because his need to focus on building a coalition prevented him from traveling abroad.
“This year in Jerusalem, next year in Washington,” he said, eliciting applause from the audience.
Netanyahu said he looked forward to welcoming the American president to Israel this month and pursuing peace in the region.
“With President Obama, we shall work for peace,” he said.
He noted that “Israel is prepared for a meaningful compromise,” but indicated he would not take steps that he felt endangered his country’s security.
“We gave up territory. We got terror. We cannot allow that to happen a third time,” he said. “We must work together to find a realistic path forward. And I think that path has to be a measured, step-by-step process in which we work to advance a verifiable, durable and defensible peace.”
Netanyahu also warned against allowing Iran to manipulate the diplomatic process.
“Diplomacy has not worked,” he declared. “Iran ignores all these offers. It’s running out the clock. It has used negotiations, including the most recent ones, to buy time to press ahead with its nuclear program.”
He continued, “Thus far, the sanctions have not stopped the nuclear program either.”
While Iran has not yet crossed the “red line” Netanyahu drew at the UN last September in terms of the amount of uranium it has enriched, the prime minister cautioned that Iran has drawn closer and has positioned itself to cross that line very quickly once it decides to do so.
“To prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow Iran to cross that red line,” he said to applause.
“Words alone will not stop Iran.
Sanctions alone will not stop Iran.
Sanctions must be coupled with a clear and credible military threat if diplomacy and sanctions fail.”
Netanyahu also offered some lighter comments on his efforts to form a governing coalition, noting that he was sorry not to make it to Washington.
“Unfortunately, I had to stay in Israel to do something a lot more enjoyable: putting together a coalition government. What fun!” he said to laughter.
Despite the gridlock in Washington over spending and other major policies, he argued that in Israel it was worse.
“If I can offer a free piece of advice, don’t adopt Israel’s system of government,” he said.
“Believe me, it’s a lot easier finding common ground between two parties than it is to find common ground among 10 parties.”