John Kirby blames Trump for emboldening Iran as Biden weathers storm over ‘don’t’ foreign policy


White House national security communications spokesperson John Kirby reacted to Iran’s direct attacks against Israel, in part by blaming former President Trump for supposedly emboldening Iran. 

Kirby sat down with Shannon Bream on “Fox News Sunday” to discuss the latest escalation in the Middle East under the Biden administration. Israel fended off a furious attack of more than 300 drones and missiles launched at Israel from Iran on Saturday, thwarting 99% of the attack with the help of neighbors and allies such as the U.S.

The Biden administration has reportedly advised Israel against a retaliatory strike against Iran.

“The weakness that we’ve shown [under the Biden administration], it’s unbelievable. And it would not have happened if we were in office, you know that,” Trump said Saturday. 

Bream pressed Kirby about the Biden administration’s policies to permit waivers on sanctions and unfreezing assets vis-à-vis Iran. Last month, the Biden administration re-approved a sanctions waiver to permit Iraq to purchase energy from Iran, effectively allowing the state-sponsor of terrorism to access $10 billion. Kirby had said at the time the money would not go to its “mullahs.” 

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Jonathan Kirby Donald Trump Israel-Iran war

Kirby blasts former President Trump after Iran attacks Israel with drones and long-range missiles. (Getty Images/File)

“Could this administration have been tougher on Iran? Did it sense an opening?” Bream asked. 

“It’s hard to take a look at what President Biden has done and say that we have somehow gone soft on Iran,” Kirby responded. “It was the previous administration that decided to get us out of the Iran deal. And now Iran is so much dramatically closer to a potential nuclear weapon capability than they were before Mr. Trump was elected.”

Biden warned Friday that an attack by Iran on Israel was possible over the weekend, telling reporters his message to the Islamic Republic was “Don’t.”

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GOP senators criticized what they saw as Biden’s continued weakness on deterrence after the Iranian regime ignored his request. 

“So much for President Biden telling bad guys ‘Don’t’ actually being an effective deterrent. Every time he says ’Don’t,’ they do,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wrote in an X post on Saturday.

“Under President Trump, Iran was broke. President Biden gifted them billions of dollars and then naively said ‘don’t,'” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. “‘Don’t’ is not a foreign policy. Joe Biden’s policies have funded Iran’s attack on Israel.”

Biden and Trump

President Biden and former President Trump (Left: Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images | Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Bream pressed Kirby again on whether the White House was soft on Iran, and he again blamed Trump’s foreign policy. 

“Is it not fair to say, though, that there have been moves by this administration that have opened up cash and other opportunities for them, which we know are fungible in ways that are not helping the Iranian people but are benefiting the elites and people there who chant ‘Death to America?,'” Bream asked. 

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Kirby responded by saying, “The additional funds that have been made available to Iran due to the sanctions relief program that the Trump administration put in place, can only be used for humanitarian goods. It doesn’t go to the regime. And the idea that the regime was somehow felt like they were freed up to support these proxies because of that. It just doesn’t comport with the fact that they have been supporting these proxies for years.” 

Iran missile launch

Iran’s medium-range ballistic missile called Hayber (Hurremshahr-4) is seen after the launch during the promotional program organized with the participation of high-ranking military officials in Tehran, Iran, on May 7, 2023. (Iranian Defense Ministry/Hanodut/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

He also said the money wasn’t “fungible.”

“They can’t, they physically can’t do that,” Kirby said. 

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Before Saturday’s attack, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his country’s forces had for weeks “been preparing for the possibility of a direct attack from Iran.”

Biden said after the attack, “Israel demonstrated a remarkable capacity to defend against and defeat even unprecedented attacks, sending a clear message to its foes that they cannot effectively threaten the security of Israel.” 

Fox News’ Michael Lee, Brooke Singman and Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.



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