- President Joe Biden said Iran is closer than before to creating nuclear weapons.
- He blamed former President Donald Trump for backing out of the Iran deal in 2018.
- Biden seeks to renew the deal, which exchanges curbs on Iran's nuclear program for sanction relief.
President Joe Biden said his predecessor Donald Trump made a "gigantic mistake" by withdrawing from the multinational Iran deal and that it has resulted in Iran getting closer to developing a nuclear weapon.
"The only thing worse than the Iran that exists now is an Iran with nuclear weapons," Biden said in an interview with Israeli broadcaster Channel12 aired on Wednesday.
"I think it was a gigantic mistake for the last president to get out of the deal. They're closer to a nuclear weapon now than they were before," he added.
The president gave the interview just before his four-day trip to Israel and Saudi Arabia, as key US allies in the Middle East urged Biden to draft a strategy for containing Iran and its militant groups.
Biden said the Iran deal still "makes sense" amid the backdrop of the US countering the Iranian Quds Force. This paramilitary group has fought against Washington's interests and helped kill hundreds of American soldiers in the Middle East over the last decade.
When asked by Israeli news anchor Yonit Levi if the White House would "use force" against Iran's nuclear program, Biden said he would be willing to sanction an attack, but that it would be a "last resort."
"But Iran cannot get a nuclear weapon," he reiterated.
Biden has sought to restore the 2015 Iran deal — formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — that former President Trump withdrew the US from in 2018.
The pact dates back to the Obama administration and involves the US, the UK, France, China, Russia, and Germany. It spelled out an agreement from Iran to scale back its nuclear program in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Trump backed out of the deal in 2018, largely criticizing it on the basis that its restrictions would eventually expire and possibly allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon afterward.
About a year after Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran, the country began taking steps to abandon the deal. It quit the agreement altogether in 2020, after the Trump administration ordered a drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Solemaini.
In May, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran's stockpiles of enriched uranium had exceeded the limit agreed to in the 2015 deal by 18 times.
Under Biden, the possibility of a new deal has been stalled by Iranian officials insisting that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps be removed from the US Foreign Terrorist Organizations list. In the Wednesday interview, Biden said he would not be willing to accede to that request so the deal can come through.