Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, on Wednesday rejected the characterization of the Biden administration’s approach to the Iran nuclear issue as “soft”.
Speaking to Udi Segal of Channel 13 Newsduring her visit to Israel, the ambassador said, “I would not characterize the Biden administration policy toward Iran as soft. We have made clear that we will not allow the Iranians to gain access to a nuclear weapon, and we have indicated that we are prepared to engage with the Iranians in a diplomatic process that will lead to both of us returning to the JCPOA, to compliance with the JCPOA. But I would not describe it as soft. We have the full range of diplomatic tools within our toolkit to work with the Iranians, but we want to give diplomacy a chance. “
She made clear that “we are not in any way naïve in our approach to the Iranians. And so, we’re there with a clear view of what our goals are, and certainly they are there to push their goals, but hopefully we can come to some agreement on a way forward that will be beneficial to all of us and provide security for the entire region.”
Asked whether the fact that the US never mentions the military option against Iran signals a weakness in this region, Thomas-Greenfield replied, “I don’t know that we have not mentioned any options. I think all options remain on the table, but our primary goal is diplomacy. We don’t want another war in the Middle East. For God’s sake, that’s not in any of our interests.”
Segal asked whether the Biden administration has a plan for the Middle East, or whether the region is less of an interest for it.
“It clearly is an interest or I would not be here. The purpose of my visit here to Israel is to reaffirm the already strong relationship that we have with Israel, but also to engage with Israel concerning its security concerns here in the Middle East. And I will be traveling from here to Jordan. I will engage with the Jordanian government on issues related to the Middle East. And of course, it’s an issue that we engage on a regular basis in New York,” replied the US ambassador.
On the issue of the Biden administration’s insistence on opening a US consulate for Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem, Thomas-Greenfield said, “There was always a consulate here for Palestinians, but it is not an issue…the Secretary has spoken on this issue and what the plans are for moving forward in the future. But for the moment, we have a unit within our embassy here in Jerusalem that works on Palestinian issues.”
On the issue of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said President Biden “has indicated that he believes a two-state solution is the best way forward to provide security for the Israeli people and a measure of hope for Palestinians.”
Asked what she plans to tell PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas regarding the peace process during her meeting with him, which took place on Wednesday, she said she plans to be in “listening mode” with Abbas “and engage with him on the concerns that he has related to the Palestinian people. This is my first visit to the region, and my primary goal was to address the issues that I deal with on a daily basis at the United Nations and inform – become better informed about those issues so that I’m in a better position to engage on them.”