World Citizen: Reading Biden’s Iran Message (and Obama’s ‘Correction’)

World Citizen: Reading Biden’s Iran Message (and Obama’s ‘Correction’)

Vice President Joe Biden lived up to his "talks before he thinks" reputation once again, when he told an interviewer that the United States would not stop Israel if it decided to attack Iran's nuclear installations. "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," Biden said on a weekend talk show. Political analysts decided this was another Bidenism, which President Barack Obama would soon have to correct.

Sure enough, a couple of days later the president, during his visit to Moscow, took time to sit down with reporters and give them exactly what the pundits had predicted. "Absolutely not," Obama said with a calm that belied his initially emphatic words, when asked if the U.S. was giving Israel a green light to attack Iran. The headlines grabbed the "no green light" message. But a closer look at Obama's words point to a striking similarity in the message to Iran from Biden, and from the rest of the administration -- including Obama.

The journalist Michael Kinsley famously described a "gaffe" in Washington as an occasion when a politician tells the truth by mistake. Vice President Biden, who once enjoyed the reputation of being a knowledgeable expert on such subjects as U.S. foreign policy, has now become caricatured as something of a Washington gaffe machine. He is, however, a clever man -- a policy insider who understands the Middle East. Is it possible that the administration is using Biden's reputation for accidentally revealing the truth in order to communicate subtle threats?

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