Vice President Joe Biden suggested today that the United States would not try to stop Israel if it decides on military action to stop Iran's nuclear program. Speaking on ABC's This Week, Mr. Biden said:
"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."
The Vice President is well known for speaking off the cuff and not sticking to the official White House script. It's not clear whether he was speaking for himself or for the Administration. But when given the chance to retract his statement, Mr. Biden continued:
"Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination — if they make a determination — that they’re existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country."
Both the U.S. and Israel have said strongly that a nuclear armed Iran is unacceptable. Iran claims its nuclear program is for civilian purposes only. Much of the world isn't so sure. And Israel is particularly vulnerable, what with Iranian President Mahmoud Admadinejad's many statements about wiping Israel off the map. Israel has not ruled out military action. Admirial Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Fox News Sunday that a military strike would be costly, but it could be the final option:
"It could be very destabilizing, and it is the unintended consequences of that which aren’t predictable... I think it’s very important, as we deal with Iran, that we don’t take any options, including military options, off the table."
Also still on the table, according to the Vice President, is President Obama's offer of negotiations with Tehran:
"If the Iranians respond to the offer of engagement, we will engage. The offer’s on the table."