Obama’s Failure to Confront the Iranian Threat

Yesterday, America learned that Iran conspired to launch a terrorist attack in Washington, D.C., with a planned assassination of the Saudi ambassador and bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies.

13 de Octubre de 2011

U.S. authorities disrupted the plot and have brought charges against the men who planned to carry out the attack, but the audacity of Iran’s actions highlights a disturbing truth: The Obama Administration has done far too little to deter state-sponsored terrorism, and it has utterly failed to confront the Iranian threat.

Not one month ago, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood before the United Nations General Assembly in New York City and delivered a speech rife with hatred of the United States, September 11 conspiracy theories, anti-Semitism, and Holocaust denials. His diatribe at the U.N. has become an annual ritual, but as we learned yesterday, this year’s performance occurred all while Ahmadinejad’s government was seeking to attack the United States–a fact that President Barack Obama was made aware of in June of this year.

It is being reported that following the charges against Iran, the Obama Administration is seeking to use the development as leverage to “unite the world” against Iran, with Vice President Biden saying, “That’s the surest way to be able to get results.” Meanwhile, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked that the plot “crosses a line that Iran needs to be held to account for.” Iran, however, crossed the line long ago, be it the country’s rogue pursuit of nuclear weapons, its calls for the eradication of Israel, its support of terrorism, its meddling in Iraq, or its interference with the movement toward democracy in the Middle East. Even without yesterday’s charges, the Obama Administration has had plenty of reason to take the lead on confronting the Iranian threat, but it has utterly failed to do so.

On June 28, 2011, the White House released its “new” National Strategy for Counterterrorism. The 19-page document makes exactly one reference to Iran. The subject of state-sponsored terrorism is virtually ignored. In August, The Heritage Foundation Counterterrorism Task Force criticized the Administration for failing to address the threat:

The President’s strategy pays insufficient attention to state-sponsored terrorism, which will increasingly be a major force to be reckoned with. Iran is one of the most prominent and aggressive state sponsors of terror and its proteges–both Hamas and Hezbollah–represent potentially grave threats. In addition, transnational criminal cartels in Mexico are increasingly taking on the character of terrorist networks.

Now we see that those criticisms are well-founded, and the threat of Iran launching a terrorist attack on the U.S. homeland very nearly became a deadly reality. The Heritage task force wrote that it’s a threat that can’t be ignored:

The iron triangle of state-sponsored terrorism–Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah–is potentially as significant a threat to U.S. interests as a reconstituted al-Qaeda. Iran remains the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Breaking the triangle apart can only be accomplished by bringing freedom to the people under the tyranny of the leadership in Tehran–change that has to come from within the country.

The Obama Administration, to date, has pursued the Obama Doctrine–a foreign policy that calls for the United States to engage with its enemies instead of confronting the threat of state-sponsored terrorism head on. It’s an attitude and a posture that has been pervasive in President Obama’s rhetoric–abjuring American exceptionalism, passing on the opportunity to speak loudly to promote the spread of democracy in the Middle East, failing to condemn Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless regime, offering weak support to Israel and failing to condemn those who threaten the country’s very existence, and presenting a face of international accommodation and ambivalence. Obama’s strategy invites aggression and leaves the American people less secure as a result.

The Administration must finally change direction. Heritage’s James Carafano writes that it should take strong measures to respond to Iran’s actions, including conducting a proportional military response against suitable, feasible, and acceptable targets (in many ways the situation is similar to military operations conducted against al Qaeda in Pakistan). It should impose and enforce the strongest sanctions, target public diplomacy to expose the regime’s human rights abuses, reduce Iran’s meddling in Iraq, and rescind and rewrite its counterterrorism strategy.

The time for flowery speeches and benevolent engagement with America’s avowed enemies is over. President Obama must wake up to the fact that Iran and countries like it pose a very real threat to America, its friends, and its allies, and it must take proactive action to protect itself from those who seek to do it harm.


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Mike Brownfield - Blog, The Heritage Foundation