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A Green Light?


I guess that I don’t read Biden’s comment in the same way that Marc Lynch:

BIDEN: Look, 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.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Whether we agree or not?

BIDEN: Whether we agree or not. They’re entitled to do that. Any sovereign nation is entitled to do that. But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed.

What we believe is in the national interest of the United States, which we, coincidentally, believe is also in the interest of Israel and the whole world. And so there are separate issues.

If the Netanyahu government decides to take a course of action different than the one being pursued now, that is their sovereign right to do that. That is not our choice.

I read this as Biden distancing the United States from any Israeli attack; this is to say that, if the Israelis do attack Iran, that the United States had nothing to do with it. I don’t really see it as the US giving Israel a green light; why would such a message ever been given in public? I probably wouldn’t have used the phrase “entitled” but the point seems to be to draw a distinction between Israel and the US, rather than to indicate a preferred course of action to the Israelis.

… to clarify a bit, Israel is unlikely to ask for overflight permission from anyone, Iraqi, Saudi, or American, if it wants to attack Iran. The chances of US aircraft shooting down attacking Israeli fighters as they cross Iraq is approximately zero, and the Iraqis don’t have the capability. This is to say that the Israelis do not need our permission to attack Iran, whether they’re crossing Iraqi airspace or Saudi. What I read this statement as saying is this: “What the Israelis do, they do on their own. An Israeli attack on Iran is not part of US policy.”

I should add that this is yet another case in which supposedly clear “messages” turn out to be remarkably murky.

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