Vice President Biden to Visit Israel


bidenThe Obama administration is concerned with the possibility of an Israeli strike on Iran, and is sending some of its top officials to try to calm the situation. After Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, who met with IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi yesterday, Vice President Joe is slated to arrive in Israel next week for his first visit to the Jewish state.

The American administration has yet to officially announced Biden’s visit, but a statement is expected to be issued soon.

Biden will be the most senior American official to visit Israel. His visit has been preceded by trips by US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Advisor James Jones and CIA Director Leon Panetta. The Obama administration is working to increase cooperation and coordination with Israel on the Iranian matter.

Biden, who is considered a hawkish symbol in the Obama administration, has openly defended Israel’s right to strike in Iran. Appearing on the ABC network last July, he was asked how the US would respond if Israel decided to launch an attack on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear facilities, he 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.”

But when asked of the possibility that Israel may pressure the US to attack Iran, Biden said, “There is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed.”

He added that “what we believe (pursuing diplomatic options regarding Iran) is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world.”

In the meantime, the American administration is stepping up its activity in the Middle East. In addition to Admiral Mullen’s visit to Israel and Biden’s upcoming trip, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton is currently touring Qatar and Saudi Arabia, while Under Secretary William Burns is visiting Syria and Lebanon.

In a press conference in Tel Aviv Sunday night, Mullen warned of the possible implications of a strike on Iran: ” Mullen hinted that the US could attack Iran if negotiations failed and that such action could have “unintended consequences” throughout the volatile Middle East.

“Of course, there are limits and this (military strike) option is on the table, but we are not there yet,” Mullen said, adding that it was important to let diplomacy and international pressure work before looking into military options.

Prime Minister Netanyahu is currently in Russia for talks with Kremlin officials, in hopes of convincing Moscow to support harsher sanctions against Iran. Before the prime minister landed at his destination, Moscow stressed that there was nothing preventing it from supplying Iran with advanced S-300 antiaircraft missiles.

“This deal is not restricted by any international sanctions, since these are purely defensive weapons,” a Russian official said. Israel has been trying to foil the arms deal for some time now.

{Ynet/Yair Israel}