Biden: If Israel wants to bomb Iran, we can’t stop them

DEBKAfile Special Report July 5, 2009, 5:51 PM (GMT+02:00) debka.com

US Vice President Joseph Biden: Israel must determine for itself.

US Vice President Joseph Biden: Israel must determine for itself.

In an interview with ABC’s George Stephanoupolos taped Saturday, vice president Joseph Biden said in answer to a question: “Look, Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else.” Whether we agree or not? The interviewer asked. “Whether we agree or not,” said the vice president.

This was the first time a senior Obama administration official left Israeli the military option against Iran’s nuclear sites. DEBKAfile‘s Washington sources note that the vice president has the reputation for fast draws which are sometimes later modified by “clarifications.” If this time Biden’s statement was coordinated with the president, it would mean that the administration has withdrawn its veto against Israel’s resort to military action to curtail Iran’s drive for a bomb before diplomacy has been fully tested.

He went on to say: “They’re entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed. What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world.

“And so there are separate issues. If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice. “

Stephanopoulos persisted: But just to be clear here, if the Israelis decide Iran is an existential threat, they have to take out the nuclear program, militarily the United States will not stand in the way?

Biden: “Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.

Interviewer: You say we can’t dictate, but we can, if we choose to, deny over-flight rights here in Iraq. We can stand in the way of a military strike.

Biden: “I’m not going to speculate, George, on those issues, other than to say Israel has a right to determine what’s in its interests, and we have a right and we will determine what’s in our interests.”

DEBKAfile‘s intelligence sources: The last three days from Friday, June 3, have seen a spate of reports all pointing in one direction: Israel’s air and sea capabilities for dealing with Iran and its military nuclear program. US vice president Biden’s statement, unless it is withdrawn, looks like the Obama administration’s seal on a possible Israeli attack for pre-empting a nuclear-armed Iran. “Israel can determine for itself whether or not to bomb Iran’s nuclear program,” he said.

Until now, administration officials referred a potential Israeli bombardment of Iran as a disaster whose consequences were impossible to predict.

Now the ball is squarely in Binyamin Netanyahu’s court, whether because Washington hopes Israel will pull the Iranian chestnut out of the fire, or to call Israel’s bluff. Netanyahu and defense minister Ehud Barak are now free of America restraints for backing up their statements about the need to pre-empt a nuclear-armed Iran before the Islamic Republic poses an existential threat to Israel.

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