, WASHINGTON, July 6 – US Vice President Joe Biden said, in an television interview, that the United States would not stand in the way of Israel in its dealings with Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
"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 told ABC television’s "This Week" Sunday.
"Whether we agree or not. They’re entitled to do that… We cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination, if they make a determination, that they’re existentially threatened."
But the top US military officer meanwhile warned of the dangers posed by any military strike against Iran.
"It could be very destabilizing, and it is the unintended consequences of that which aren’t predictable," Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff told "Fox News Sunday."
However, he added: "I think it’s very important, as we deal with Iran, that we don’t take any options, including military options, off the table."
A senior Iranian official visiting Japan said Monday his country would respond "in a very full-scale and very decisive way" if it were attacked by Israel.
"I think that America and Israel are fully aware what kind of result such a wrong judgement will entail," Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, said.
President Barack Obama has said he wants to see progress on his diplomatic outreach to Iran by year’s end, while not excluding a "range of steps," including tougher sanctions, if Tehran continued its controversial nuclear drive.
Hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not ruled out a possible military strike against Iran, insisting that Tehran, which the Mossad spy agency could have a ready-to-launch nuclear bomb within five years, must not obtain nuclear weapons.
"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," Biden said. "But there is no pressure from any nation that’s going to alter our behavior as to how to proceed."
Israel, the region’s sole if undeclared nuclear-armed state, contends — as does the West — that Iran is seeking to acquire a nuclear arsenal, despite Tehran’s repeated denials.
The Jewish state has also called the Islamic Republic a threat to its existence, citing Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call to wipe Israel off the map.
Biden also confirmed that the Obama administration remains open to pursuing negotiations with Tehran, despite the regime’s crackdown on protesters following a disputed election outcome last month that saw Ahmadinejad return to power.
"If the Iranians respond to the offer of engagement, we will engage," Biden said. "The offer’s on the table."
Mullen declined to say whether the danger posed by a nuclear-armed Iran would be sufficient to outweigh the negative consequences of a US military strike on Tehran’s weapons program.
"I think both outcomes are really, really bad outcomes. And that speaks to the very narrow space that we have to try to resolve this so that neither one of those things occur," he said.