WASHINGTON (JTA) — Vice President Joe Biden said the United States was willing to go to war to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
War was “unpredictable,” Biden said Thursday evening addressing the 30th anniversary dinner of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, but “if required, it will happen. It is a risk that we may yet have to take should Iran rush to a bomb.”
Biden’s warning was the bluntest ever threat from any administration of war against Iran should it pursue a nuclear weapon. The George W. Bush administration introduced the locution “all options are on the table,” and that has remained until now the favored formulation.
“The finest military in history remains at the ready,” Biden said. “Don’t underestimate my friend Barack Obama. He has a spine of steel and he is willing to do what it takes to keep our allies safe.”
He referred to the deployment of U.S. Navy warships to escort U.S.-flagged vessels in the Persian Gulf in the wake of Iran’s seizure of a cargo ship this week.
“We’re prepared to use the force, just listen to the news tonight about what we’re doing in the straits,” Biden said.
He also said that President Barack Obama had authorized military preparations in the event of a decision to strike Iran.
“No such policy existed before president Obama uttered it, that all instruments of American power to prevent — not contain — a nuclear armed Iran would be used ,” Biden said. “He made sure that our military had the capacity and the ability to execute the mission if required.”
Biden’s pledges were part of part of a broader pitch to Israel supporters to ignore warnings from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the emerging nuclear deal between Iran and the major powers.
Biden twice quoted Netanyahu to deride his views, although he did not name him.
“Those who say the deal ‘paves Iran’s path to a bomb’, respectfully, they don’t get it,” Biden said, in one such instance. He also mocked Netanyahu for calling the interim agreement a “historic mistake,” although Netanyahu now favors its extension.
Biden reiterated pledges he made a week ago in a speech to the Israeli embassy’s Independence Day party, saying the Obama administration would not sign a deal that ended sanctions up front and that did not allow for intrusive measures that would extend Iran’s breakout period from three months, where the Obama administration believes it now stands, to a year.
Iran’s leaders have insisted that sanctions would go almost immediately.
Biden added a new pledge: A deal would require Iran to reveal its past nuclear weapons research. Iran’s leaders have rejected such a formula.