WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Joe Biden said he would use force as a last resort to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon as he began a trip to the Middle East.
Speaking in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 TV that was recorded before he left Washington on Tuesday but aired on Wednesday, Biden said he would keep Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the U.S. Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTO) list even if that killed off the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
Asked if his past statements that he would prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon meant he would use force against Iran, Biden replied: “If that was the last resort, yes.”
Iran denies it seeks nuclear weapons, saying that its nuclear program is for solely peaceful purposes.
Tehran struck a deal with six major powers in 2015 under which it limited its nuclear program to make it harder to obtain a weapon in return for relief from economic sanctions.
U.S. President Donald Trump reneged on the deal in 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran, prompting Tehran to start violating the agreement’s nuclear limits about a year later.
Efforts to resurrect the deal so far failed, with a senior U.S. official telling Reuters that chances of its revival were lower after indirect talks between the United States and Iran in Doha two weeks ago.
Negotiators appeared close to a new deal in March, but talks broke down largely because of U.S. refusal of Tehran’s demand that Washington remove the IRGC from the terrorism list, arguing this was outside the scope of reviving the pact.
Asked if he was committed to keeping the IRGC on the FTO list even if that killed the deal, Biden replied: “Yes.”
The IRGC, a powerful political faction in Iran, controls a business empire as well as elite armed and intelligence forces that Washington accuses of a global terrorist campaign.
(Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Bill Berkrot)