Vice President Biden used the Obama administration’s sharpest rhetoric to date in its commitment to protecting Israel from its enemies in Tehran, saying that the window for diplomacy with Iranian officials was closing, and predicting that the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, would be ousted within two years.
Speaking at the Rabbinical Assembly’s annual convention in Atlanta on Tuesday, Biden said previous administrations had failed to adequately pressure Iran on its nuclear programs, and portrayed the Obama administration as prepared to use military force if sanctions against Iran fail to curb its nuclear ambitions.
“Today it is starkly, starkly different,” Biden said.
The vice president argued that the Iranian regime was already crumbling amid pressure from the United States and its allies, and said the administration’s commitment to “going the last diplomatic mile” with Iran was already paying off, and would diminish the severity of a potential future armed conflict with the country.
Biden reported that counties were ceasing to do business with Iran because of the sanctions, and that it had become difficult for Iran to do “basic financial transactions.”
“Anyone who thinks that Iran is a monolith is making a gigantic historical mistake,” Biden said. “The dissension between Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] is palpable. They will not both be around two years from now, and my bet is that Ahmadinejad is gone.”
Biden’s strong showing of support for Israel and tough rhetoric against Iran is a signal this is likely to remain an important election year issue, and that the administration could be concerned over GOP attacks that it has been soft in the face of the Iranian threat.
President Obama has himself spoken strongly on the matter in this campaign cycle, condemning his Republican opponents for “bluster” in “beating the drums of war” over their accusations that he has shown a lack of resolve in protecting Israel from a potentially nuclear-armed Iran.
In March, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum blasted Obama’s policies toward Israel and Iran in addresses to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, and Romney, the likely GOP presidential nominee, wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post accusing Obama of “fretting” while Iran builds out its nuclear program.
“Those folks don’t have a lot of responsibilities,” Obama shot back. “They’re not commander in chief. When I see the casualness with which some of these candidates talk about war, I’m reminded … of the decisions I have to make in sending these men and women into battle.
“This is not a game,” Obama said.
By trying to paint the Obama administration as weak on Iran, Republicans are making a play for Jewish voters, who tend to lean Democratic. The fierceness with which the administration has pushed back on this idea shows how seriously it takes this threat to one of its key constituencies.
At times during his address on Tuesday, Biden raised his voice to passionately defend the Obama administration’s record on Israel and Iran.
“What frustrates me is that some have asserted … that we’re not fully committed to preservation of security of Israel,” Biden said. “I’m proud of our record. No president since Harry Truman has done more for Israel’s physical security than Barack Obama.”
On the campaign trail and in debates, Romney has said repeatedly that he will stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but if Obama is reelected, Iran will get the bomb.
“Make no mistake,” Biden continued. “An Iran with nukes would cause a grave threat to the U.S. as well. The U.S. policy under Barack Obama is not one of containment. It is straightforward — we will prevent Iran from acquiring a nuke by whatever means necessary, period.”
Biden also pointed to other efforts in which he says the United States has been a key ally to Israel under the Obama administration, such as standing alone in opposition to the United Nations fact-finding mission regarding Israel on the Gaza conflict, that was detailed in the Goldstone Report; U.S. funding and technology for myriad defense systems and radar programs, such as Iron Dome and David’s Sling; and the administration’s denunciation of the United Nations World Conference for equating Zionism with racism, among others.