In a speech from the Oval Office, President Joe Biden asked for billions to be spent on the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, but strikingly mentioned Iran only once.
Biden was speaking less than a day after his short visit to Israel. He tried to make the case to Americans that defeating Russia and Hamas is ‘vital’ for their national security.
“I know the conflicts can seem far away and it’s natural to ask: Why does this matter to America?” Biden said. “History has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction.”
Around the same time as Biden’s address Thursday evening, rockets hit a military base near Baghdad’s international airport, which hosts US troops and forces from other countries.
Curiously enough, the US President chose to say little about the regime in Iran, which supports almost every group in the region that acts against US interests.
“Iran is supporting Russia in Ukraine, and it’s supporting Hamas and other terrorist groups in the region,” Biden said in his only reference to the Islamic Republic, “[we] will continue to hold them accountable.”
He didn’t offer any details as to what holding ‘accountable’ might actually mean or what substantive measures his government would take to rein in the Iranian regime.
Biden’s critics were quick to pick on him for what they see as ‘weakness’ or even ‘appeasement’.
“Biden could BEGIN holding the Iranian regime accountable by vigorously enforcing oil sanctions, and by reversing course on his appeasement policies that have enriched them with tens of billions of dollars,” the Republican National Committee said in a statement.
The debate about Iran’s role in funding militant groups has become more prevalent in Washington with the Hamas attack against Israel on October 7, in which around 1,300 civilians were killed.
“Biden’s Oval Office address was a weak speech,” Senator Marsha Blackburn wrote on her X account (formerly Twitter). “Once again, Biden failed to hold Iran accountable, commit to freezing the $6 billion to Iran, or pledge to withhold aid to Hamas.”
Critics of the administration have called this a ransom, warning that it could lead to more hostages.
“Joe Biden has a hostage crisis on his hands,” wrote General Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s controversial former US national security adviser. “It’s the worst since Islamic revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy in Iran in 1979 and captured 52 Americans. This time, it’s Iran’s Palestinian asset Hamas that’s holding more than a dozen Americans.”
Tensions run high in the region in the wake of an explosion in a Gaza hospital for which Israel and Hamas blame one another. At least 3,000 Palestinians have been killed so far in Israeli airstrikes, according to officials in Gaza.
Many fear that the war between Israel and Hamas may spiral out of control and bring in other regional actors such as Hezbollah or Shi’a armed groups in Iraq.
Last week, some Iraqi groups threatened to target US interests with missiles and drones if Washington intervened to support Israel against Hamas in Gaza. In the two days, a US Navy warship operating near Yemen and US military bases in Iraq and Syria have come under drone attack.
The United States has 2,500 troops in Iraq, and 900 more in Syria.