Demonstrating that it learned nothing from the backlash after it called ISIS top dog Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi an “austere religious scholar,” the Washington Post called Qasem Soleimani, who was killed today in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iran’s “most revered military leader.” If Soleimani, who as head of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Quds Force was responsible for aiding numerous jihad terror activities worldwide, was revered at all, it was more by the Obama foreign policy team that saw him and his government as a valid partner for negotiations than by anyone in Iran. And tonight, the Obama team and the entire U.S. foreign policy establishment sees all of its core claims and principles proven false, and its recommendations rightly disregarded.
Not that they’ve noticed. They’re still asserting those principles as valid, and as a rebuke to Trump’s action in ordering this strike. Obama’s foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes, who boasted about how the Obama administration lied to sell the disastrous Iran nuclear deal, was full of consternation and indignation after the news broke of Soleimani’s death. He tweeted that “this is a really frightening moment. Iran will respond and likely in various places.”
Kelly Magsamen, vice president for National Security and International Policy at the hard-left Center for American Progress and former Obama Defense Department official as well as a member of the National Security Council (NSC) staff under Obama and Bush, tweeted: “I worked the Iran account for years at the NSC under two Presidents. I’m honestly terrified right now that we don’t have a functioning national security process to evaluate options and prepare for contingencies. God help us.”
Senator Chris Murphy (D, of course, CT) himself tweeted: “The justification for the assasination [sic] is to ‘deter future Iranian attacks’. One reason we don’t generally assasinate [sic] foreign political officials is the belief that such action will get more, not less, Americans killed. That should be our real, pressing and grave worry tonight.”
Rhodes, Magsamen, Murphy and those who are saying similar things are working from the assumption that while Iran (and other countries) may strike at the United States with impunity, the U.S. must never strike back, or do so only in an extremely limited way, for fear of retaliation. If they had been in the Franklin Roosevelt administration on December 7, 1941, they would have advised FDR not to do anything about the Pearl Harbor attack: Rhodes would have told him, “This is a really frightening moment. Japan will respond.” Murphy would have told him that retaliating “will get more, not less, Americans killed.” Once we did strike back at the Japanese Empire, Magsamen would have added, “I’m honestly terrified right now.”
This is the thinking of the foreign policy establishment in general. On Tuesday, I asked here at PJ Media, “Do the Iranian Mullahs Think Donald Trump Will React Like Jimmy Carter?” They would have been entirely justified in thinking that he would: Carter’s hypercautious, passive, weak and inept response to the Iranian hostage crisis represented the wisdom of the most revered foreign policy “experts” of the time, but the Iranian mullahs correctly saw his response as a manifestation of weakness and pusillanimity.
Over the years since then, they have seen again and again that they could present the United States with virtually any provocation and suffer no consequences. The most egregious example of this came in January 2016, just as the International Atomic Energy Agency was about to certify Iran’s compliance with the Obama nuclear deal, paving the way for the lifting of U.S. and European Union sanctions. Iran seized two U.S. Navy boats and briefly held ten American sailors hostage, publishing photos showing them being publicly humiliated. Instead of canceling the nuke deal, Obama officials struggled to put the best possible spin on the events. Obama White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the hostage-taking illustrated why the nuclear deal was so urgently needed: “We continue to be concerned about this situation. That precisely is why the president made preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon a top national security priority, and we’re making progress in actually accomplishing that goal.”
How the ayatollahs must have laughed. But they are unlikely to be laughing now. They probably thought that engineering the storming of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad would turn out much the way Benghazi did, with Trump maybe talking a bit tougher than Obama and Hillary did, but not taking any significant action. On Wednesday, the Ayatollah Khamenei even taunted Trump about this, tweeting: “You can’t do anything.” He probably felt secure in the knowledge that the State Department is still full of “experts” of the Rhodes/Magsamen type, who would warn Trump that he must not act – that to respond would just “provoke” the Iranians.
The next day, Khamenei found out otherwise. So did the State wonks with Ben Rhodes’ picture on the walls of their cubicles. The mullahs have now been put on notice. If their bloodthirsty regime for which Qasem Soleimani ruined the lives of so many people finally falls as an end result of Trump’s strong response, the Iranian people will be able to be grateful that the multiply discredited U.S. foreign policy establishment did not prevail.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.