Biden on Israel/Iran

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"Biden on Israel/Iran"

Israel Air Force F-15s (wikimedia)

Israel Air Force F-15s (wikimedia)

Over the weekend, Joe Biden made some news with these remarks on the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran:

BIDEN: 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Whether we agree or not?

BIDEN: Whether we agree or not. 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.

This is being read by some, including Marc Lynch, as a “green light” for an Israeli attack. Like Robert Farley I think the most straightforward reading of what Biden said is rather different, he’s trying to distance the United States from any possible Israeli military action by making it clear that what Israel does or doesn’t do is decided in Israel rather than in Washington.

The main problem with this, I think, is that probably nobody’s going to believe it. Already you see many Americans taking Biden’s statement that the U.S. doesn’t control Israeli policy to “really” mean that the U.S. is encouraging Israel to attack.

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