Biden says Iran will ‘never’ get a nuclear weapon on his watch

US President Joe Biden meeting with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (L) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, June 28, 2021 (AFP via Getty Images)

Joe Biden promised Israel he wouldn’t allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons “on his watch” while warning that the US Commander in Chief doesn’t need Congressional approval to drop more bombs in the Middle East.

Mr Biden rattled the sabre during his first meeting as president with Israeli officials after he was blasted by Israel’s outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Democrat efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal.

The president ordered an airstrike on Iran-backed militia groups on the Iraq and Syria border region on Monday in his second military action to bypass Congress’s Authorisation for Use of Military Force (AMUF).

Speaking to outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin soon afterwards, Mr Biden sought to placate fears his administration would be soft on Iran as the White House seeks a Diplomatic solution to normalising relations between the two countries.

“What I can say to you is that Iran will never get a nuclear weapon on my watch, as they say,” Mr Biden said.

His comments came after Mr Netanyahu used his last address as Israeli prime minister to compare the Iran nuclear deal to the United States’s refusal to act at the height of the Holocaust in World War II.

“The new US administration requested that I save our disagreements on the Iran nuclear deal for behind closed doors, and not share them publicly. I told them I won’t act that way,” Mr Netanyahu said.

“And I’ll tell you why. Because the lessons of history are in front of my eyes. In 1944, at the height of the Holocaust, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt refused to bomb the railway leading to the extermination camps, and refused to bomb the gas chambers, which could have saved millions of our people,” he added.

Mr Biden told his Israeli counterpart that he directed Monday’s airstrikes to sites used by Iranian-backed militia groups responsible for attacks on US personnel in Iraq using authority under Article II of the Constitution. It was the same authority he cited when bombing sites used by Iran-supported militia in eastern Syria in February.

“I have that authority under Article II, and even those up in the Hill who are reluctant to acknowledge that’s the case,” Mr Biden said.

He was citing the constitution’s authority to conduct United States foreign relations and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive, which is a departure from previous presidents seeking authorisation from Congress.

Mr Biden supported House Democrats’s vote to repeal the 2002 resolution that authorised the invasion of Iraq and gave the White House broad war powers following the 9/11 terror attacks more than two decades ago.

The vote, which passed 268 to 161, is seen as the first step in rolling back broad-ranging powers used for the US’s campaign against the Islamic State under former President Barack Obama and more recently by Donald Trump for the drone strike launched from Baghdad International Airport that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in 2020.

But Mr Biden’s use of Article II of the Constitution means the presidency wouldn’t require new authorisation from Congress when acting as Commander in Chief, as he wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after the airstrikes in February.

“I directed this military action consistent with my responsibility to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad and in furtherance of United States national security and foreign policy interests,” Mr Biden wrote.

In his White House meeting, Mr Biden said he looks forward to welcoming the new prime minister of Israel, Naftali Bennett, as part of the US’s “unwavering” commitment to supporting Israel.

“As the American press here can tell you, my commitment to Israel is, well they can’t tell you anything actually they’re not supposed to, but it’s ironclad. It’s real, and it’s ... it’s something that I often say if there weren’t an Israel we’d have to invent one,” Mr Biden said.

“And so this includes ... we’re, you know, we’re committed to unwavering commitment to your self-defence and today we’re going to be discussing a broad range of challenges, including Iran.”

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