Vice President Joe Biden said he was “deeply involved” in President Barack Obama’s decision to scrap the U.S. missile defense shield over Eastern Europe because he is “less concerned” now about Iran’s long-range nuclear threat, CNN reports.
"I think we are fully capable and secure dealing with any present or future potential Iranian threat," Biden said Thursday in Baghdad."The whole purpose of this exercise we are undertaking is to diminish the prospect of the Iranians destabilizing that region in the world. I am less concerned — much less concerned — about the Iranian potential. They have no potential at this moment; they have no capacity to launch a missile at the United States of America.”
Biden’s prediction came on the heels of an International Atomic Energy Agency report released Thursday that said Iran “is capable of making a nuclear weapon and is far along on developing a missile system to carry an atomic weapon.”
An IAEA spokesman reiterated that it has no concrete proof that there is or has been a nuclear weapon program in Iran, and that the next formal report on Iran's nuclear capabilities is expected in November, Fox News reports.
The Obama administration’s decision to scrap the Eastern Europe missile defense was based on Iran’s long-range missile program “not progressing as rapidly as once expected,” diminishing the threat to the U.S. and major European capitals, the Wall Street Journal reports.
House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., blasted Biden’s statement about Iran’s potential threat, saying he hopes Biden’s remarks aren’t accurate. “Iran’s missile and nuclear programs pose a clear and real threat to both the United States and its allies,” Cantor said in a statement released by his spokesman.
“A suggestion that the United States is only concerned about international threats that can definitively reach our shores will raise questions amongst our allies about our true commitment to their well-being. Allies including Poland, the Czech Republic and Israel stand on the front line of an Iranian missile threat and should never doubt the United States’ commitment to their security.
”Biden assured that the Obama administration is not abandoning its allies who “took significant geopolitical risks” in standing up to Moscow over the missile-defense shield. A fact sheet issued by the White House Thursday explaining Obama’s decision to halt the missile defense program said the new approach will “augment our current protection of the U.S. homeland against long-range ballistic missile threats.”
The White House statement said a new approach to the U.S. missile defense program will protect “our Allies in Europe sooner and more comprehensively than the previous program, and involves more flexible and survivable systems. The Czech Republic and Poland, as close, strategic and steadfast Allies of the United States, will be central to our continued consultations with NATO Allies on our defense against the growing ballistic missile threat. We also welcome Russian cooperation to bring its missile defense capabilities into a broader defense of our common strategic interests.”
"This is catastrophic for Poland," a spokeswoman at the Polish Ministry of Defense told CNN, adding that Poland and the Czech Republic had based much of their future security policy on getting the missile defenses from the United States. On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that experts at the world's top atomic watchdog fear Iran will have enough uranium for a nuclear warhead by the end of this year and that Iran is expected to have inter-continental ballistic missile capability by 2015 or sooner.
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