Biden says U.S. won’t ‘wait forever’ on Iran to return to nuclear deal
President Biden on Thursday in Jerusalem affirmed his administration’s desire to return to the nuclear deal with Iran but warned he wouldn’t “wait forever,” as Israel expressed its continued opposition to reviving the agreement.
In opening remarks at a press conference alongside Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Biden maintained that diplomacy represented the best chance to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
Biden declined to say whether the United States would set a deadline for Iran to return to the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), after months of talks failed to achieve Biden’s desired outcome.
“We’ve laid out for the leadership of Iran what we’re willing to accept in order to get back into the JCPOA,” Biden said in response to a reporter’s question. “We’re waiting for their response. When that will come, I’m not certain, but we’re not going to wait forever.”
Biden, who met one-on-one with Lapid earlier Thursday on his first trip to the Middle East as president, sought to assure Israel throughout the visit of the U.S. commitment to its security and preventing a nuclear Iran.
“We mean what we say. They have an opportunity to accept, this agreement has been laid down. If they don’t, we have made it absolutely clear: We will not — let me say it again — we will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon,” Biden said later during the press conference.
Israel has consistently opposed the Obama-era nuclear deal, from which former President Trump withdrew the U.S. in 2018. Biden pledged to revive the deal as president but talks have stalled, raising fresh doubts about the prospect of a breakthrough.
On Thursday, Lapid made clear his belief that diplomacy was not the answer to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, telling Biden at the press conference that only a credible threat of force would stop Tehran.
“Words will not stop them, Mr. President. Diplomacy will not stop them. The only thing that will stop Iran is knowing that if they continue to develop their nuclear program the free world will use force,” Lapid said.
“The only way to stop them is to put a credible military threat on the table,” he continued. “The Iranian regime must know that if they continue to deceive the world they will pay a heavy price.”
In an interview with Israel’s Keshet 12 on Wednesday, Biden said the U.S. would use force to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon only as a “last resort.” He also labeled Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement a “gigantic mistake.”
“The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons,” Biden told the news station. “They’re closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before.”
Biden and Lapid signed a new joint declaration on Thursday following their meeting in which the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to protecting Israel against threats from Iran.
The document states that the U.S. “is prepared to use all elements of its national power” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.