Finishing the violent Iranian state and its malfeasance is long overdue
The Biden inauguration proceeded peacefully, in spite of one House Democrat’s charge that three-quarters of America’s National Guardsmen “might want to do something” to interfere. Congress should focus on actual enemies of America, like Iran.
Since the 2020 election, Tehran greeted Mr. Biden with muscle flexing, seeing a “golden opportunity” to confront America. Iran’s supreme leader, referring to America as “the enemy,” backed lifting sanctions only if in a “correct, wise, Iranian-Islamic, and dignified manner.” The Iranian president bragged, “I have no doubt that the heroic national resistance of Iran is going to compel the future U.S. government to bow … and the sanctions will be broken.” Hezbollah announced it has doubled its advanced missile arsenal in one year.
Iran-backed militias in Iraq targeted two U.S. coalition convoys with roadside bombs, and rocketed our embassy in Baghdad twice, first killing a young woman, second launching the largest such attack since 2010. Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked two tankers with limpet mines and another with an explosive boat, and a container ship also hit a mine. Iranian “armed soldiers” seized a third tanker, holding it “hostage” for $8.5 billion in frozen Iranian assets. Finally, the FBI charged Iranian cyber actors with threatening American election officials.
Yet earlier this month, at least 150 members of Congress urged Mr. Biden to re-enter the Obama-era Iran deal, appeasing Tehran again.
Provocations continued. U.N. officials confirmed Iran is enriching uranium to five times the deal’s limit, shrinking its nuclear breakout window from four months to as little as two by mid-2021. An Iranian general threatened Americans “cannot relax anymore even at your home, and it is not unlikely that we will take revenge inside the house.”
A top U.S. official confirmed Tehran harbored al Qaeda’s second-in-command until his death, saying 9/11’s terrorists have “a new home base: it is the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Tehran fired a “barrage” of missiles in a drill resembling its Saudi oil facility attack, and another in which missiles splashed down within 20 miles of a commercial ship and 100 miles of an American carrier strike group. And again, the FBI charged that Iran continued to threaten the lives of U.S. officials over the 2020 election.
Still, Mr. Biden supports re-entering the Iran deal to improve it — though to do so would entail lifting existing sanctions, rewarding Iran for its nuclear activities, paying off the “bargaining chips” of its malign activities (again) and eliminating America’s leverage. After all, no less an authority than Barack Obama credited Congress’ sanctions with bringing Tehran to the table in the first place. How could Mr. Biden get more concessions from Iran with less leverage?
Likewise, a former Democratic vice presidential candidate urged Mr. Biden to craft a new Iran policy reflecting “regional realities of 2021, not 2015,” recognizing “Iran used the windfall it received to further terrorize the Middle East.”
Similarly, a liberal New York Times columnist opined, “it would be unwise for the United States to give up the leverage of the Trump-imposed oil sanctions just to resume the nuclear deal where it left off.” The region has changed since 2015, he argued, especially with Tehran’s acquisition of precision-guided missiles.
None other than Mr. Biden’s incoming national security adviser admitted recently, “We did believe that if you had the Iranian nuclear program in a box, you could then begin to chip away at some of these other issues,” yet, “obviously, that did not come to pass.”
Even Mr. Biden himself acknowledges the deal failed to slow Iran’s malfeasance. Within weeks of concluding the deal, Britain arrested Iranian operatives stockpiling explosives outside London. Iran used the deal’s cash to prop up Syria’s murderous Assad regime, run its civil war and ultimately drive 5 million refugees into Europe, leading to a humanitarian catastrophe and a jihadi tidal wave.
By Mr. Obama’s exit, Iran’s influence extended beyond Syria, Iraq and Lebanon into Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. When America withdrew from the deal, the U.S. had “not seen any drawdown or reduction in Iran’s malicious activities and malign activities across the region,” a senior defense official reported.
The lesson? It’s time to finish Iran, not blink. The author of “Victory: The Reagan Administration’s Secret Strategy that Hastened the Collapse of the Soviet Union” speculates Iran may be nearing collapse: Iran’s own Statistical Center acknowledges inflation now tops 40%, and the IMF reports Iran has only a few billion dollars of foreign exchange reserves remaining. Why would America not drive the mullahs out of business as it did the Soviets?
The Capitol riot deserves opprobrium — as do the 633 riots after George Floyd’s death that cost at least 25 lives and did up to $2 billion of damage. But don’t let anyone distract you from bloodthirsty enemies like Iran — and Democrats’ attempts to cozy up to it — with slanderous charges against patriotic Guardsmen.
• Christopher C. Hull, president of Issue Management Inc., serves as senior fellow for Americans for Intelligence Reform, senior analyst at Ravenna Associates and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics. He is the author of “Grassroots Rules” (Stanford University Press, 2007).