President Joe Biden said on Wednesday the U.S. will not remove Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) from the U.S. foreign terrorist organization list – even if it means walking away from a nuclear deal. He further added that the U.S. could use force against Iran as a “last resort” to stop it from having nuclear weapons.
In an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 television network – which aired as Biden landed in Israel to kick off his Middle East diplomacy tour – news anchor Yonit Levi asked Biden if he was committed to keeping IRGC on the list “even if that means it kills the deal.”
“Yes,” Biden said without hesitation.
Levi then asked if Biden was willing to do “anything” to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon – a vow he has said repeatedly – including using force.
“If that was the last resort, yes,” Biden said.
Biden denied to detail whether or not Israel would join in on such an act of force against Iran.
“Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon,” Biden added. “The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons.”
Biden criticized the decision of former President Donald Trump to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal intended to constrain Iran’s nuclear weapons development, which Trump had said was not stopping Iran’s secret nuclear operations.
Biden called Trump’s decision a “gigantic mistake” that has propelled Iran’s nuclear development to now being “closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before.”
Last week, Iran announced it had achieved 60% uranium enrichment — a relatively close step to the 90% needed for nuclear weapons-grade material.
Iran has insisted its nuclear program was for “peaceful” purposes though UN experts estimated that Iran’s military was running the nuclear program since 2003.
The 2015 nuclear deal removed sanctions from Iran in exchange for strict monitoring of its nuclear activities, as well as limits on its development, such as capping its allowed supply of enriched uranium.
Biden administration officials have restarted nuclear negotiations with Iranian officials to either return to the deal that was once struck, or establish a new deal. Those negotiations have stalled as Iran has increasingly refused to abandon its nuclear program or make concessions while the U.S. retains the IRGC’s terrorism status.
Iran’s nuclear program is expected to be a top issue on Biden’s Middle East trip this week.
While greeting Biden during his arrival, Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said, “We will discuss the need to renew a strong global coalition that will stop the Iranian nuclear program.”