VP Biden Beats Drums of War Against Iran at AIPAC Conference
White House, Israel PM Netanyahu's bellicose rhetoric met with cheers
The annual AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference was the stage for U.S. and Israeli leaders to affirm their message that "all options are on the table" against Iran.
Speaking on Sunday, the first day of the three-day conference in Washington, D.C., Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned of his country's seriousness of its threat to use force against Iran:
Sanctions are unprecedented and hurting, but frankly – while exhausting all diplomatic means is understandable – I do not believe it will lead to a “moment of truth”, where the Ayatollahs will give up their nuclear aspirations. Therefore, all options must remain on the table.
We have stated this time and again. And we expect all those who say it… to mean it… Ladies and gentlemen… We mean it. And let me repeat it: we… mean it.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed Barak, addressing the conference via satellite message, and said that sanctions were not enough:
To prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, we cannot allow Iran to cross that red line. We have to stop its nuclear enrichment program before it’s too late. And I have to tell you, and with the clarity of my brain: 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.
On Monday, Vice President Joe Biden affirmed the White House's openness to a military threat against Iran. He began his address at the conference saying that he "did more fundraisers for AIPAC in the ‘70s and early ‘80s than just about as many as anybody." He said that "President Barack Obama is not bluffing" in his commitment to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and said that "all options, including military force, are on the table" to do that.
It is not only in Israel's interest -- and everybody should understand -- I know you understand this, but the world should -- it's not only in Israel's interest that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon, it's in the interest of the United States of America. It's simple. And, as a matter of fact, it's in the interest of the entire world.
Iraq's [sic] acquisition of a nuclear weapon not only would present an existential threat to Israel, it would present a threat to our allies and our partners -- and to the United States. And it would trigger an arms race -- a nuclear arms race in the region, and make the world a whole lot less stable.
So we have a shared strategic commitment. Let me make clear what that commitment is: It is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Period. End of discussion. Prevent -- not contain -- prevent.
The President has flatly stated that. And as many of you in this room have heard me say -- and he always kids me about this; we'll be in the security room -- and I know that Debbie Wasserman Schultz knows this because she hears it -- he always says, you know -- he'll turn to other people and say, as Joe would say, he’s -- as Joe would say, big nations can't bluff. Well, big nations can't bluff. And Presidents of the United States cannot and do not bluff. And President Barack Obama is not bluffing. He is not bluffing. (Applause.)
We are not looking for war. We are looking to and ready to negotiate peacefully, but all options, including military force, are on the table.
Yet preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon wouldn't be enough to stop seeing the country as a threat, according to Biden:
But even preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon still leaves them a dangerous neighbor, particularly to Israel. They are using terrorist proxies to spread violence in the region and beyond the region, putting Israelis, Americans, citizens of every continent in danger. For too long, Hezbollah has tried to pose as nothing more than a political and social welfare group, while plotting against innocents in Eastern Europe -- from Eastern Europe to East Africa; from Southeast Asia to South America. We know what Israel knows: Hezbollah is a terrorist organization. Period. (Applause.) And we -- and me -- we are urging every nation in the world that we deal with -- and we deal with them all -- to start treating Hezbollah as such, and naming them as a terrorist organization. (Applause.)
At Monday's press briefing, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney confirmed that 'all options were on the table' with respect to Iran when questioned about whether the window for opportunity for diplomatic dialogue with Iran was closing and if there was a timeframe for that:
Well, we take no option off the table, including the military option. That’s a point the President has made repeatedly, A. B, there is no question that the window, the door, the period of opportunity here will not last forever and that the more that Iran flouts. [...]
There’s no question -- well, I won’t characterize a timeframe here, but there is no question that as Iran continues to flout its responsibilities, as it continues to take seriously the insistence of the international community and fails to produce tangible progress in P5-plus-1 talks, that its opportunities to get right with the international community diminish, as does the timeframe in which they can do that. But I’m not going to put a date certain -- an end date certain. Obviously, there's a lot upon which that depends.