Take two headlines, one about Iraq, the other about Afghanistan. The Iraqis told us to honor our signed agreement, and pull out all our troops by year’s end. Over in Kabul, Karzai said he’d go to war against us if we attacked his neighbor, Pakistan. It’s the same story in both places, but the real headline is the thirty-year-old one: U.S. fails to come up with an Iran strategy.
It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? You’re a Middle Eastern leader, and you’ve been working and fighting alongside the Americans. The United States was magnificent on the battlefield, and you either won (as in Iraq) or were winning (Afghanistan) when the Americans announced they were leaving. And they even set a date for their departure. Where does that leave you?
It leaves you high and dry, at the mercy of the Iranians, who aren’t going away, and who, although defeated in one battle and bloodied in another, intend to keep on killing. Maybe even you yourself. Remember that Maliki in Baghdad used to be a member of an Iranian-sponsored terrorist organization called Dawa. He knows all about the Iranians’ enthusiasm for slaughter, and he knows that if he’s uncooperative they won’t hesitate to blow him up. And remember that Karzai in Kabul is being paid by the Iranians — he said so himself — and he, too, knows that there are lots of terrorists in his country who will kill him. They already killed his brother, after all.
When the Americans are gone, who’s going to defend Maliki, Karzai, and the rest of them? They are properly dubious about the capacity and loyalty of their own forces, and we’ve taught them they can’t rely on us. Along come the mullahs with their protection racket: “What a shame! The Americans are leaving, as we told you all along. But hey! Everyone’s entitled to a mistake now and then. And we’ll protect you much better than they did. And it will only cost you…”
The reaction from the administration is predictably pathetic. Having failed to convince the Iraqis to rewrite the Status of Forces Agreement they signed with Bush, Obama declared victory. He proclaimed it a triumph of his diplomacy, and the fulfillment of a campaign promise. As I remember it, he promised to run away right away, but no matter. At the same time, Defense Secretary Panetta acted as if it was just something we’d have to pretend to respect, while reopening talks that would lead to the return of American trainers.
And out there in diplofantasy land, our secretary of state, having overcome an attack of the giggles after being told of the butchering of Muammar Qaddafi, warned Iran that they’d better watch out, because our heroic diplomats weren’t about to leave. Furthermore, we’ve got bases in the region. “Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries in the region, both in bases, in training, with NATO allies, like Turkey…”
Nobody pointed out that one of our fiercest diplomats, Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, had run back to Washington because of “threats to his safety.” And Hillary’s reference to Turkey as a paradigm of tough American friends was particularly unfortunate, since the Turks neither talk nor act like allies. They talk like anti-Americans.
Before I forget, let me remind you that anti-Americanism comes in two distinct versions. The first is the one we’re most familiar with, the hatred of America because it is held to be arrogant, imperialistic, militaristic, and insensitive to the needs of the rest of the world. The second, which is very much in play nowadays, is contempt for America because the Americans just aren’t up to the role history has assigned them: global policeman. There’s a lot of that out there, not without justification.
To be sure, as Obama’s fans will tell you, he approves the killing of lots of bad guys, of which Qaddafi is the latest case in point. It’s an impressive list by now, and grows longer virtually every day. And they insist that he’s brought down more tyrants than George W Bush and Dick Cheney ever dreamed of, and is calling for Assad to go. Why is he not getting proper credit? they ask. The answer’s pretty easy: because in the three cases of regime change to date (Tunisia, Egypt and Libya), Obama arrived late to the fight, plainly dithered before making up his mind which side he was on, and never seemed to be “in charge,” without which he really isn’t entitled to ask for a medal. And as for the assassination of terrorists, while it’s a better world without them, it’s not a fundamentally changed world, and Obama promised to change the world. If you’re going to fight the terror network, you’re going to have to target headquarters, training camps, and home bases. He has yet to act effectively against the two surviving charter members of the Axis of Evil, Iran and Syria. They have every reason to believe they can do most anything without fearing anything more than sanctions, headshakes, and tongue clucks.
Weakness is provocative, Rumsfeld used to say in his lucid moments, and the Syrians, Iranians, Hezbollahis, Hamasniks, Islamic Jihadis et al. have been duly provoked. They think they’ve got us where they want us: cowering inside our own borders, afraid to fight it out in third countries, and totally lacking the will to challenge them on their fragile home bases.
Indeed, many in our political and intellectual elite are so keen to avoid any justification for serious action against the Iranian regime that they have been desperately inventing “reasons” why the mullahs couldn’t possibly have been involved in that assassination plot in Washington. I’ve reserved time on my Ouija board for a conversation with the ghost of James Jesus Angleton on this matter, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that he’s laughing hard at claims that the Iranians are too “professional” to do such a thing, would never have worked through non-Muslim drug runners, and would never have risked a frontal confrontation with the United States by killing on our own soil.
To these feeble objections, several points need to be made:
First, we haven’t seen the government’s full case, we’ve only seen information sufficient to convince a grand jury to indict the Iranians involved. I am given to understand that there is a lot more, and that the case is strong. The Canadians agreed when they were briefed, by the way. And if you are rooting for all the evidence to come out, you’ll be pleased that the alleged would-be perp decided to plead “not guilty.” If he sticks to that, the government will have to present its full case.
Second, there are many top Iranian officials who have been indicted for murder in countries from Argentina to France, Germany and Cyprus. These “professionals” were identified as members of criminal conspiracies that carried out assassinations. They’ve been caught over and over again. So much for the myth of the brilliant Iranian professionals.
Third, just this past summer, a man from Guyana was sentenced to many years in prison for plotting to blow up JFK Airport in New York City in 2007. He was arrested as he was about to board a plane to Tehran, where he had been engaged in “religious studies” in the holy city of Qom.
Finally, the notion that the Iranians would have feared the American response to an act of mass murder in downtown Washington is one of those theories spun out of smoke and raindrops. What if it had actually happened? Suppose — to take the Iranians’ favorite MO — a car bomb blew up in front of that restaurant (which has big glass windows facing the street). Lots of people killed and sliced up by glass shards flying through the air. How would we know who did it? Suppose we caught a Mexican drug runner. What then? On what basis would we go after Iran? After all, there are plenty of “experts” ready to say that the Iranians would never do such a thing…
I can’t help thinking that it’s all part of a single pattern of appeasement and retreat.
So, you may ask, why didn’t the administration just sit on this case? Why, as I recently asked, did they put on the big Eric Holder show?
Beats me. Maybe Angleton’s spirit will know more.