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The Iranian Assassination Plot: Islamic Statecraft

Iran expected a weak response, knowing our leaders do not understand Islam.

by
Abraham H. Miller

Bio

October 14, 2011 - 1:01 pm

The foiled Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States illustrates the cultural fault line that divides the Islamic world from the West — and the contempt with which the Iranians hold the Obama administration.

Killing a diplomatically protected person in the nation’s capital is a severe violation of international, as well as American, law. Even for the Islamic regime of Iran, which has conducted assassinations all over the world, it was an unprecedented action. Iran has never before been so bold as to consider an assassination in the American capital, especially one by explosion that would result in numerous additional casualties. Until now, Iran has conducted assassinations in countries where it felt it was unlikely to get caught or be subject to retaliation. This new tactic is an indelible statement of Iran’s contempt for the current administration.

A nation’s external statecraft is a function of its cultural values. Its embrace of international law will depend on how it perceives the international community’s legal structure reflects its own values. In Islam, there is a long tradition that treaties are expedient devices to gain advantage, and the idea of a transcendent legal system is irrelevant if it does not advance the cause of Islam. After all, Mohammed’s treaty with the Koresh tribe of Mecca, which was conveniently discarded once Mohammed bought sufficient time to conquer the city, is cited even by Muslims as an example.

It was no accident that in 1979 the American embassy and diplomatically protected persons were seized by the Iranian revolutionaries, and the new Islamic government did nothing to honor its legal obligations to protect the embassy or its personnel. Indeed, the Islamic government of Iran itself eventually became complicit in the embassy takeover.

The Iranian government was making a statement, one it continues to make, and one which the Obama administration is incapable of hearing: the Iranian government does not perceive international law or any Western-based institutional system as legitimate. This is the same statement that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber, made when he pleaded guilty in a Detroit court of attempting to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight. Abdulmutallab claimed that he was not guilty under Islamic law, and was only pleading guilty because he was in an American courtroom governed by American law.

This was the mindset of Yasser Arafat, when in the wake of having signed the Oslo accords, he hastened to tell Arab audiences — in Arabic — that he had in actuality signed the Peace of Mecca, the peace Mohammed signed with the Koresh tribe.

Weeks ago, the Egyptian government withheld protection of the Israeli embassy from a bloodthirsty mob until President Obama himself directly intervened with the Egyptians. Prior to that moment, the Egyptian government was perfectly content to ignore its legal obligation to protect a foreign embassy, even when it meant the embassy personnel would be slaughtered.

The authentic voice of the Arab Spring is not seen in the MSM hype or the Obama administration depiction of democracy breaking out in Tahrir Square, but in the rape of journalist Lara Logan. The charade of the Arab Spring is revealed in the brain-splattered head of a Coptic Christian, who was one of dozens of Christians purposely crushed by military vehicles as they repeatedly sped through the crowd mauling demonstrators.

The Christians are protesting the burning of churches, a conflagration unleashed with the rise of Egypt’s Arab Spring and the ascension of the Muslim Brotherhood. The face of the Arab Spring, so lauded by this administration and the MSM, is revealed in pictures of rank and file soldiers joining with the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood, who were brutally attacking the Christian demonstrators that the soldiers were supposed to protect.

In another indulgence of fatuous behavior, President Obama asked both sides to exercise restraint.

But worse, the mainstream Christian community has been righteous in its silence on the increasing brutalization of Christians in the Islamic world. Even the pope has retreated from his earlier courageous criticism of Islam. Violent attacks on Catholics in the Islamic world have silenced him. In the Islamic world, violence on behalf of Islam is an imperative, and in the face of violence, the Holy See has backed down.

It is not just the MSM that fails to understand the incompatibility of Islamic culture with the rule of Western law. Barry Rubin, in PJMedia, describes the naïve observations of three prominent Republicans on the uprising in Libya, observations that could only be appropriately described as quixotic embraces of a Potemkin Village scene of democratic rebels — who are in reality killing prisoners, bombarding civilians, and selling weapons to terrorists.

The Obama administration is handling the Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, which also had the potential of killing scores of innocent bystanders, as a criminal justice problem and not what it is — an act of war. This is an act of war brought on by Obama’s willingness to engage Iran without any demand for reciprocity, and his alacrity to embrace the murderous Bashir Assad as a partner in the Middle East.

When American leaders are looked upon as weak buffoons, our adversaries and our enemies will take risks in dealing with them. Nikita Khrushchev perceived President Kennedy as weak and inept, especially after his abandoning the Bay of Pigs invaders and terminating their air support. Khrushchev gambled on tilting the balance of terror in his favor by putting nuclear missiles in Cuba. Fortunately, Kennedy rose to the occasion.

Now Iran moves decisively toward producing a nuclear weapon, and the administration does nothing. The administration has done nothing about Assad’s opening the border with Iraq to move in fighters who kill American troops. The administration has done nothing about Iran’s transfer of weapons to Iraq’s Shi’a militia. Iran is the source of the military grade explosives used in IEDs.

One could not have expected a culture which has no reverence for the norms of international law to abide by legal restraints, but one could have expected that all cultures comprehend the consequences of provoking a strong adversary who is unhesitant in undertaking decisive retaliation, especially for an act of war.

Clearly, the Iranians believed we would not retaliate. And this was to be expected. They did what no nation-state in the modern era has done. In 1979, they flagrantly violated the law of nations as applied to internationally protected persons. They suffered negligible consequences. Their Hitler-like president is honored by our elites and invited to disseminate his hatred at one of our most privileged universities. The Iranians see an administration that pursues them. Their client Bashir Assad was hailed as a partner for Middle East peace, and even after he was shooting people in the streets, the Obama administration clung to him until it became too obscene to continue.

In these times, the nation needs another JFK, a man who learned from his mistakes and had the courage to preserve the nation’s security. Instead, we are burdened with a president who equivocates when decisiveness is needed and who is stymied by a vision of Islamic culture that fails to recognize how it translates into statecraft.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science and a former head of the Intelligence Studies Section of the International Studies Association.
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