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Joe Biden says the only way out of Iran crisis is diplomacy

Biden: The only way out of Iran crisis is diplomacy
Biden: The only way out of Iran crisis is dip... 02:13

Former Vice President and Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden delivered remarks in New York Tuesday amid heightened tensions between the United States and Iran following the airstrike that killed top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani

"Trump's impulsive decision may well do more to strengthen Iran's position in the region than any of Soleimani's plots would have ever accomplished," Biden predicted.  

He criticized President Trump for having "no strategy" and "no endgame." He said that the president's "constant mistakes" and poor decision-making have left the U.S. with limited options.

The former vice president argued that the only way out of the Iran crisis is through diplomacy.

"No one wants war," he said, adding that it would take hard work to make sure we don't end up there "by accident."

The remarks gave Biden the chance to flex his foreign-policy chops at a time when the U.S. is bracing for possible retaliation from Iran following Soleimani's death.

Joe Biden
Democratic presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden delivers a foreign policy address in Manhattan in New York City, on January 7, 2020. Brendan McDermid / Reuters

President Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani, the leader of Iran's powerful Quds Force, last week after the administration received what it said was information about "imminent" threats to American troops and diplomats. 

A senior administration official told CBS News last week that the legal basis for the strike against Soleimani was the authorization of military force (AUMF) in the 2002 Iraq War resolution. But Biden said on Tuesday he did not believe this authorization, which he voted for at the time, applies to the current strike. 

"You cannot pursue with Iran without consent and authority from Congress. The existing AUMFs, the congressional authorization for use of military force, do not apply," Biden said, though he did not elaborate.

More than 3,000 troops headed to the Middle East on Monday to bolster defenses.

Biden criticized Mr. Trump in his speech for bringing the U.S. "dangerously close" to starting anew in the Middle East, despite campaigning on bringing an end to so-called endless wars.

"I have no illusions about Iran. The regime has long sponsored terrorism and threatened our interests. They've ruthlessly killed hundreds of protesters, and they should be held accountable for their actions," the former vice president said. "But there is a smart way to counter them — and a self-defeating way. Trump's approach is demonstrably the latter."

Biden, who served in the U.S. Senate for more than three decades before he was vice president, also stressed the need for the Congress and White House to come together "to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party."

"We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government. We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch," he said. "We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart."

"That's not a naïve or outdated way of thinking," Biden added. "That's the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward."

Foreign policy overtook the presidential campaign trail this weekend, with nearly every Democratic candidate weighing in on U.S.-Iran policy and U.S. involvement in Iraq going forward. Allies of the Biden campaign tell CBS News they hope this focus on foreign policy will solidify in voters' minds that global experience is a necessity, a quality they say separates Biden from his Democratic rivals.

But not everyone agrees that Biden's long record of foreign policy is an asset. Before Biden was vice president, he was a Delaware senator who was the long-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

During this time, he voted in 2002 in favor of the Iraq War resolution, a vote that Biden's rivals — most notably Senator Bernie Sanders — criticize him for now. On Saturday, at his Des Moines campaign event when an attendee asked about this vote, Biden was both reflective and defensive.

"It's not to suggest I haven't made mistakes in my career, but I will put my record against anyone in public life in terms of foreign policy," Biden told his crowd while explaining his vote for the Iraq War.

Ed O'Keefe and Major Garrett contributed to this report.

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