As a U.S. senator in 1996, Joe Biden characterized a deadly bombing orchestrated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as an "act of war" that gave the United States latitude to respond with any level of force it deemed necessary, a far cry from his current calls for President Donald Trump to explain his decision to kill Qassem Soleimani.
Biden's view, expressed during an Aug. 4, 1996, interview with ABC News's Sam Donaldson—before the United States determined that the IRGC was responsible for the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia—was that, were Iran involved in the attack, it would yield its sovereignty. The attack on the U.S. Marine barracks left 19 dead and hundreds wounded.
"[The United States] could take whatever action it deems appropriate," Biden said at the time. "They yield their sovereignty if they are [behind the attack] … it's an act of war."
The strong stance differs greatly from his response to Thursday night's deadly strike on Soleimani—itself a response to Iran's attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad that killed an American contractor and wounded American troops.
The former vice president condemned the strike on Soleimani as "a huge escalatory move in an already dangerous region."
"President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interests, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond," Biden said in a statement on Soleimani's death.
The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Soleimani served as a top commander of the IRGC, which was officially deemed responsible for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in September 2018 when Iran was ordered by a U.S. District Court to pay $104.7 million to victims.
In the 25 years since Biden's tough talk, Soleimani emerged as one of the most influential figures in the Middle East. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops stationed in the region and played a key role in growing Iran's political influence over other countries in the Middle East. Biden, in fact, played a key role in Soleimani's successful installation of Iranian-aligned leadership in Iraq, according to reporting from the New Yorker‘s Dexter Filkins.
Biden acknowledged Soleimani's murderous acts in his statement, saying that "no American will mourn" his death. Ultimately, he viewed the strike as a mistake due to the repercussions, saying, "Iran will surely respond."
Biden has increasingly landed on the side of caution when it comes to attacks on foreign terror leaders. He was notably the only member of former president Barack Obama's inner circle who opposed the attacks on Osama bin Laden—a decision from which he has repeatedly attempted to distance himself.