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What’s Joe Biden Thinking?

A bewildered Marc Lynch tries to make sense of Vice President Joe Biden’s comment yesterday that “Israel can determine for itself — it’s a sovereign nation — what’s in their interest” when it comes to attacking Iran. Rounding up a number of Arab media stories that portray Biden’s remarks as a green light for an attack, Marc writes:

Why would Biden have made a statement which so radically undermines Obama’s policy towards Iran? Maybe it reflects bad new advice coming from a new NSC adviser of vague portfolio. Maybe it’s a clumsy attempt to ratchet up some pressure on the Iranian regime without actually doing anything, without regard to the spiral dynamics it could kick into gear. Or maybe it is just a major Biden gaffe, not a dramatic departure in the Obama administration’s policy. That would still be bad, but would be salvagable [sic]. Either way, the administration urgently needs to come forward quickly with a restatement of its policy — and make sure the Israelis and others in the region understand it clearly — or else it risks paying some extraordinarily serious costs.

The White House emailed Marc to walk Biden’s statement back — indicating that the vice president really did say something out of line with administration policy — by writing, “Our friends and allies, including Israel, know that the President believes that now is the time to explore direct diplomatic options.” None of which really explains why Biden said what he said. It’s hard to imagine that a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee didn’t understand that his words would be read as a green light for an Israeli strike on Iran.

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