The Washington Post finds it newsworthy that senior al-Qaeda figures are leaving (or being shown the door in) Iran. Obviously, it is an interesting development … but one is constrained to ask why the Post did not seem to think it much of a story that Iran was harboring al-Qaeda leaders in the first place.
Iran, as our friend Michael Ledeen has repeatedly observed (most recently, here), is the chief sponsor of jihadism in the world. That it is a Shiite jihadist regime has not made much difference where the West is concerned: the mullahs have trained, supplied, financed and harbored Sunni jihadists – al-Qaeda and Hamas prominently among them – for over 20 years. This is the most outrageous aspect of the U.S. government’s negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program, negotiations conducted by both the Bush and Obama administrations. The regime’s nuclear ambitions have been compartmentalized from its terror facilitation, notwithstanding that it is the regime’s propagation of revolutionary jihad that makes its potential acquisition of nukes so intolerable. We do not sit up at night worrying about, say, India’s nuclear weapons. We have anxiety over Iran because for its regime, “Death to America” is not a slogan, it is a ruthlessly pursued goal.
This is why Michael and I, among not nearly enough others, have urged for a decade that the problem in Iran is the regime, not the nukes, and that any sensible American foreign policy should make regime change in Iran an imperative. This has never necessarily meant a military invasion of Iran (although that option should always be on the table – not as saber-rattling but as something the mullahs become convinced is a realistic possibility). It has simply meant that we should have organized every aspect of American foreign policy – military, intelligence, economic, and diplomatic – on strangling the regime until it is deposed, hopefully by the Iranian people themselves but by external forces if that’s what it takes.
The mullahs gave their al-Qaeda allies a soft place to land after the post-9/11 U.S. invasion. Naturally, some see the apparent al-Qaeda exodus from Iran as a hopeful sign that Obama’s amateur-hour rapprochement gambit is working. But of course, it has nothing to do with that. What the president is doing, as observed by none other than Iran’s “moderate” president Hassan Rouhani, is a slow-motion surrender – and note that, only a day ago, Tehran’s jihadist-in-chief, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, called for “economic jihad” against the West. Iran has no incentive to help what Khamenei continues to call “the enemy,” the United States, against its erstwhile ally, al-Qaeda – and if it did, as Michael Rubin points out, it would be handing the al-Qaeda leaders over to us, not allowing them to return to places whether they can direct jihadist violence against us.