Commentary Magazine


Gaffe, It Is

We had some spirited speculation as to whether Joe Biden was test-driving a new administration position on Israel on a potential military strike against Iran or merely speaking out of school. It is the latter.

CNN reports:

The United States is “absolutely not” giving Israel a green light to attack Iran, U.S. President Barack Obama told CNN Tuesday.

President Obama meets Tuesday with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin near Moscow.

“We have said directly to the Israelis that it is important to try and resolve this in an international setting in a way that does not create major conflict in the Middle East,” Obama said, referring to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Did Biden say something he shouldn’t have? The president gives a terse response and the State Department essentially says “yes”:

“I think Vice President Biden stated a categorical fact, which is we can’t dictate to other countries what their security interests are. What is also true is that it is the policy of the United States to resolve the issue of Iran’s nuclear capabilities in a peaceful way through diplomatic channels,” [Obama] said.

The State Department took a similar line on Monday.

“Our goal here is to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. When I say ‘our’ it is just not the United States — it is the international community,” spokesman Ian Kelly said. “Israel is a sovereign country. We are not going to dictate its actions. We also are committed to Israel’s security and we share Israel’s deep concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.”
Asked if this could be interpreted as the United States flashing a green light for Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, Kelly said, “I certainly would not want to give a green light to any kind of military action.”

While it would be nice to think the Obama administration is maturing in its outlook on Iran and recognizes the utility of at least the threat of a military strike, it seems such optimism would be unfounded. And once again, one can never go wrong betting that Biden has wandered off the talking points and into a verbal minefield.

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