President Joe Biden said in an interview aired Wednesday that former President Donald Trump made a “gigantic mistake” withdrawing the US from the Iran nuclear deal and said Iran was closer now to acquiring a nuclear weapon.
“The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is Iran with nuclear weapons,” Biden said in an interview with Israel’s Channel 12 News that was taped ahead of a four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The President’s comments come amid rising tensions with Iran and as Biden faces increasing pressure from key Middle East allies to outline a comprehensive plan to constrain Iran, as hopes for reviving the 2015 nuclear deal appear to be fading.
Biden said in the interview he would use force “as a last resort” to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The President said he was also committed to keeping the IRGC, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, on the foreign terrorist list, even if it would kill a potential deal.
In the lead up to Biden’s trip, the US has been laying the groundwork to build a regional coalition against Iran and is urging the Gulf countries to integrate all their air and missile defense systems against Iranian attacks.
The President further criticized the Trump administration’s foreign policy and said, “There are those who thought with the last administration we sort of walked away from the Middle East, that we were going to create a vacuum that China and or Russia would fill, and we can’t let that happen.”
He stressed his trip to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia – the first of his presidency – was aimed at working toward stability in the region.
The President said he disagreed with other progressive Democrats who are highly critical of Israel and challenge US aid to the country.
“There are few of them. I think they’re wrong. I think they’re making a mistake. Israel is a democracy. Israel is our ally. Israel is a friend,” Biden said.
He pointed to his administration’s support of the Iron Dome aerial defense system and the next-generation, laser-enabled Iron Beam system, which he toured on his first day in Israel.
“It’s overwhelmingly in our interest that Israel be stable,” Biden said.
The President added he thinks “there is no possibility” that significant portions of the Democratic or Republican parties will be “walking away from Israel.”
Biden also suggested he would welcome a rematch against former President Donald Trump in the 2024 presidential election.
“I’m not predicting, but I would not be disappointed,” Biden said.
CNN’s Natasha Bertrand and Katie Bo Lillis contributed to this report.