The Obama administration's response to Iran's plan to bring its 32-year-old war against the United States to the US capital is the newest confirmation that President Barack Obama has no intention in taking action to remove or diminish the threat Iran poses to the US, its allies and interests.
Last week, the Justice Department revealed that law enforcement officials foiled an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US and to blow up the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington.
They arrested an Iranian-American dual national who is a relative of a senior terror mastermind serving in Iran's Revolutionary Guards. The dual national, Mansoor Arbabsiar, contacted an American undercover agent whom he believed worked for one of Mexico's drug cartels and asked for the cartel to assist Iran in carrying out the plot.
Iran declared war on the US in 1979. Since then, it has used its terrorist arms in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the region to murder Americans. It has used its terror arms in Latin American to target US interests and allies. And now it has been caught in the act of recruiting agents to assist it in carrying out acts of terror in Washington, DC.
Following the Justice Department's announcement, the Obama administration proclaimed it intends to "isolate" Iran in the international community. While it sounds like a serious plan, particularly when it is stated assertively by Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the fact is that this is not a serious policy at all.
Indeed, upon reflection, it is clear that the announced aim of isolating Iran involves doing nothing to retaliate against Iran for its aggression.
There are three reasons that this is the case. First, by placing the burden for punishing Iran on the nebulous "international community," Obama is signaling that under his leadership, America does not view operational plans to attack US interests on American soil as something that America should deal with.
In Iran's case, the "international community" means Russia and China. The two UN Security Council-veto-wielding regimes have collaborated with Iran on its illicit activities generally and its development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles specifically. Russia and China have blocked all serious sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council. Their active defense of Iran at the Security Council renders it a foregone conclusion that the UN will never authorize military force to be used against Iran's nuclear installations.
Since Russia and China prefer to see Iran acquire nuclear weapons than authorize any UN measure that could prevent or slow down this development, it is hard to imagine either government suddenly agreeing to isolate Iran just because it planned to kill the Saudi ambassador and blow up a couple of foreign embassies in Washington.
THE SECOND reason it is reasonable to conclude that the administration is being disingenuous in its tough talk about Iran is because the administration tells us it is being disingenuous. Speaking to The New York Times over the weekend, several senior White House officials said they were considering options to steeply escalate the US's sanctions against Iran.
Specifically, they said the administration is mulling the prospect of barring financial transactions with Iran's central bank. They also said that the White House is thinking about barring contact with Iran's Revolutionary Guards-owned company that controls the sale of Iranian oil and natural gas to foreign countries.
Then again, administration sources also told the Times that they aren't certain that the sanctions are such a good idea. If the US blocks the only viable path toward purchasing Iranian gas and oil and otherwise makes it impossible for Iran to sell its natural resources, they warned, the US would cause the market price of both commodities to rise sharply, thus harming its own economy.So probably the US won't ratchet up sanctions on the regime after all.
Then there is the notion of military retaliation. After the news broke of the foiled terror plot, Obama let it be known that the "military option is on the table." But then, he didn't specify the goal of the military option or its target. Is the US developing an option for attacking Iran's nuclear weapons facilities? Is it preparing to attack Iranian regime targets in an effort to topple the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world? Is it planning a military strike against IRGC targets in Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan?
It is highly unlikely that the US is planning to undertake any of these missions. Over the weekend, the US announced that its troops would be fully removed from Iraq in January. Obama has insisted on withdrawing his surge troops from Afghanistan despite the Taliban resurgence in the country.
As for attacking regime targets, it is hard to imagine that after siding with the mullahs against democracy protesters in the aftermath of the stolen 2009 presidential elections, Obama would decide to call suddenly for the regime to be replaced - let alone take military action to advance that goal.
THEN THERE is the nuclear issue. Since Russia's and China's support for Iran at the Security Council rules out any option of a Security Council-sanctioned attack in Iran's nuclear installations, it is fairly obvious that the administration will take no military action whatsoever against Iran's nuclear program. This is, after all, the administration that believes the US must receive UN approval for any military operation.
Obama's effectively pro-ayatollah policies have caused him to treat the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran as essentially identical to the threat posed to the US by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. As nuclear proliferation scholar Avner Cohen explained in an interview with The Jerusalem Post earlier this month, the administration is committed to a policy of containing a nuclear-armed Iran rather than preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Cohen explained, "The US wants itself, and also Israel, to be engaged in a thorough effort to contain Iran - like the way the Soviet Union was contained during the Cold War - meaning that for all practical purposes and short of extreme circumstances, both the US and Israel would have to put aside the military option and instead work to contain Iran."
According to Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director of the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, the US will have an opportunity to put its nuclear containment policy toward Iran into action in the near future. In an interview two weeks ago with Der Spiegel, Heinonen asserted that within two years, the Iranians will have sufficient quantities of plutonium to produce atomic bombs. Within a year, they will have enough highly enriched uranium to have what is referred to as "break-out capacity," meaning they can produce nuclear bombs at will.
The problem with Obama's non-response to Iran's nuclear weapons program and its terror plot to attack Washington is that the Iranian regime is nothing like the Soviet Union. The regime whose first foray into international diplomacy involved taking a knife to the nation-state system by attacking the US embassy and holding its personnel hostage is not a strategic equivalent of the Soviet Union. A regime that sent 100,000 of its children to their deaths during the Iran-Iraq War by dispatching them to the battlefields as human mine sweepers is not a regime that can be contained through mutual assured destruction as the Soviets were.
Iran's war against the US is a war that only Iran is fighting. And if something doesn't change very quickly, it is clear that since Iran is the only side fighting the war, Iran is the only side that will win the war.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.