Iran won’t back down from its assassination campaign targeting former U.S. officials over the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, a top Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commander said.
IRGC navy commander Alireza Tangsiri said that Iran would not accept a deal whereby the U.S. would lift terrorism sanctions in exchange for Iranian pledges to “give up on avenging Soleimani,” Reuters reported yesterday. Tangsiri, Reuters added, seemed to be speaking specifically about Iran’s demand that the U.S. remove the IRGC from its Foreign Terrorist Organization list, which bans members of the group from entering the U.S.
“This is pure fantasy. The Supreme Leader has emphasized the need for revenge and the Revolutionary Guards’ top commander has said that revenge is inevitable and that we will choose the time and place for it,” Tangsiri said.
When Iranian officials talk about avenging Soleimani’s death, they are understood to be referring to their efforts to kill Trump administration officials who planned the Soleimani operation.
Tangsiri’s comments are an indication that Tehran continues to take a hard line on its demands that the Biden administration lift the FTO designation — which has brought the talks in Geneva to a standstill.
They also demonstrate that Iran has no intention of backing down from its ongoing assassination plots, even if the Biden administration were to lift the FTO designation and return to the deal.
The Iranian government has made a number of threats targeting former U.S. officials over the Soleimani killing.
To mark the two-year anniversary of the strike in January, Iran placed 52 U.S. officials it said were involved in the Soleimani strike on a sanctions blacklist believed to double as a list of people to target for assassination. In another memorable instance that month, the country’s supreme leader even shared a video depicting Trump’s assassination on the Mar-a-Lago golf course.
Meanwhile, a number of former senior U.S. officials, including John Bolton and Mike Pompeo, have reportedly been assigned security details beyond their government service. The intelligence community believes that Iranian agents are working to assassinate the two officials on U.S. soil, the Washington Examiner’s Tom Rogan reported last month.
The Biden administration’s response to these Iranian assassination threats, besides the protective details, has largely been symbolic.
Although national-security adviser Jake Sullivan issued a statement in January pledging to inflict “severe consequences” on Iran in response to any assassinations, the U.S. has not withdrawn from the nuclear negotiations in Vienna over the ongoing threats to former officials. Instead, the administration has continued to participate in the talks, despite Iran’s demands to remove the IRGC from the FTO list.
In fact, there’s reason to believe that the administration is holding back from taking steps that would name and shame Iranians involved in these assassination plots for fear of disrupting the nuclear talks.
Rogan reported that the Department of Justice possesses indictable evidence against at least two IRGC members who are working to recruit a U.S.-based assassin to kill Bolton. (While Rogan noted that the department may have opted for a sealed indictment, he called the possibility unlikely.)
Those efforts haven’t prompted the White House to scrap the nuclear talks, and neither have Tangsiri’s recent comments.
Even as a top Iranian commander doubled down on his country’s assassination threats, the Biden administration has opted for continued engagement toward an agreement that would undeniably empower the IRGC.
USAID pressed to disclose what safeguards are in place
Republican lawmakers are pressing the Biden administration to disclose what safeguards are in place to stop U.S. humanitarian aid to Afghanistan from enriching the Taliban, according to a letter sent Friday to the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Eleven lawmakers, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee member Rep. Tim Burchett (R., Tenn.), say they “are concerned about the possibility of U.S. taxpayer dollars funding the Taliban’s terrorist regime,” according to the letter, which was obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. They are demanding that USAID, which is in charge of handling aid to Afghanistan, show what steps they have taken to ensure the Taliban cannot intercept these funds.
“Humanitarian aid to Afghanistan will finance Taliban terrorists if it is incompetently distributed,” Burchett told the Free Beacon. “The Biden administration needs to lay out what steps it is taking to prevent this from happening and adding more pain to last summer’s embarrassing withdrawal from the country.”
With more than $300 million slated to flow into Afghanistan this year as part of an effort to keep the country afloat after the Taliban regained control, the Biden administration has been mum about how it is preventing these funds from lining the Taliban’s pockets. The terrorist regime controls the nation’s coffers, meaning that any aid dollars that make their way to the government are at risk of being stolen. With this new infusion, nearly $800 million in aid will have been provided to the war-torn country since October 2020, making the United States Afghanistan’s largest donor.
USAID, in announcing the latest infusion of $308 million earlier this year, said that it is working with the Taliban to ensure aid makes its way to the people. The agency, however, did not detail the safeguards it has put in place.
“The United States continues to urge the Taliban to allow unhindered humanitarian access, safe conditions for humanitarians, independent provision of assistance to all vulnerable people, and freedom of movement for aid workers of all genders,” USAID said in a statement this week.
The Republican lawmakers say these assurances are not good enough. The Treasury Department in September 2021 issued sanctions waivers to permit U.S. transactions with the Taliban, prompting concerns the Taliban is playing a critical role in distributing American aid.
The lawmakers want answers from USAID “in light of the administration’s dealings with the Taliban, and knowing that the Taliban has a history of diverting and profiting from U.S. assistance to Afghanistan,” according to the letter.
The agency must also provide assurances that it will cooperate “with Congress as it conducts its constitutionally authorized oversight into all U.S. foreign assistance to Afghanistan,” according to the letter. The lawmakers are seeking a commitment from the administration to “reassess and pause” U.S. assistance to Afghanistan if it is determined the cash is funding the Taliban.
The American people, the lawmakers write, “deserve to have confidence that their tax dollars are not funding terrorist activities.”
Bipartisan coalition presses Biden admin to hold terror groups accountable
The Biden administration is ignoring a congressional mandate to impose sanctions on the Iranian-backed terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah for their use of human shields in combat, according to a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers.
Congress passed legislation in 2018 that requires the U.S. government to sanction every individual involved in the use of human shields, in which women and children are placed in harm’s way during combat to maximize casualties. Hamas and Hezbollah routinely employ this tactic during skirmishes with Israel to make it appear as if the Jewish state is killing innocent civilians.
“Despite overwhelming evidence, the Biden administration has yet to impose sanctions—as required by law—on the leaders of Hamas and Hezbollah for their barbaric use of human shields,” Rep. Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.) told the Washington Free Beacon. “These sanctions are long overdue and will send a strong signal that the United States will not tolerate the use of human shields.”
Gallagher and a coalition of 22 lawmakers from both parties wrote to the Biden administration earlier this week to demand that it enforce the Shields Act, which mandated sanctions be applied on Hamas and Hezbollah for their use of civilians in combat, according to a copy of the letter obtained exclusively by the Free Beacon. While former president Donald Trump laid the groundwork for the law to be implemented in 2019, the Biden administration has yet to issue any sanctions on the terror groups or their leaders.
“While the U.S. government has taken other strong measures to combat Hamas and Hezbollah in recent years, it has yet to sanction Hamas and Hezbollah leaders for their use of human shields,” the lawmakers wrote in a Dec. 20 letter to the Treasury and State Departments, which are tasked with implementing the law. “Imposing such sanctions would make clear the U.S. government does not tolerate the use of human shields and would encourage like-minded countries to take similar measures against this war crime. It would also augment the Biden administration’s efforts to undermine Hamas and weaken Hezbollah.”
During the 11-day conflict in May between Israel and Hamas, the terror group used human shields. Hamas, for instance, placed stockpiles of weapons in apartment buildings and installed a military headquarters next to a kindergarten, according to information published by the Israel Defense Forces. Rocket launchers were also found positioned in a school courtyard and near civilian structures.
“Each rocket launched at Israeli civilians from a site amongst Gaza civilians was thus a double war crime, violating the law of armed conflict prohibition on targeting civilians as well as the prohibition on using civilians as human shields,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
In one of the most glaring examples of Hamas’s use of human shields, it situated a military command post in an apartment building that housed journalists from the Associated Press and other outlets. Israel destroyed that complex after warning civilians to evacuate. The strike sparked outrage in headlines across the globe, forcing Israel to produce evidence proving that Hamas had taken over the building.
Yahya Sinwar, a Hamas leader based in the Gaza Strip who has close ties to Iran, said in May 2018 that the terror group has an expressed policy of using Palestinian civilians as human shields.
Hamas “decided to turn that which is most dear to us—the bodies of our women and children—into … a dam to prevent the racing of many Arabs towards the normalization of ties with the plundering entity,” Sinwar said.
“Imposing Shields Act sanctions on Sinwar and other relevant Hamas leaders would be an important step toward countering the extensive use of human shields against the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
Orde Kittrie, a former State Department official and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think tank, described the congressional letter as a “positive step forward” in combating Hamas’s and Hezbollah’s use of human shields.
“The extensive use of human shields by Hamas and Hezbollah in recent years is well documented,” Kittrie said. “Imposing sanctions would make clear the U.S. government does not tolerate the use of human shields and would encourage our NATO and other allies to take similar measures against this war crime.”
National security officials fear newly freed Afghan terrorists may exploit border crisis
The Taliban’s release of prisoners throughout Afghanistan poses a security threat on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to senior Department of Homeland Security officials and national security experts.
The Taliban freed thousands of prisoners, many of whom either worked directly with or had ties to al Qaeda and ISIS, when it captured Bagram Air Base on Aug. 15. Afghan soldiers surrendered the base with virtually no resistance, leaving U.S. intelligence officials with little ability to track suspected terrorists. The crisis at the southern border could prove an inviting target for terrorists, according to the DHS official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly.
“We’ve always been surprised by the countries of origin we see individuals coming from along our southwest border. It’s more than likely some Afghans will arrive now as well,” the official told the Washington Free Beacon. “It’s definitely a national security threat, and the strain of forces currently along the border would make it more likely that some would slip through illegally.”
The intelligence community warned the administration about terror threats at the southern border just weeks after President Joe Biden announced the planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. National security officials warned the White House in a classified memo, first reported by the Free Beacon, that border patrol officers had arrested two Yemeni nationals on the terrorist watch list as they attempted to cross into the United States from Mexico. One of the two men was also on the FBI’s no-fly list. Their names have not been released to the public.
The Biden administration did not respond to a request for comment.
Senators from both parties pressed Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Mark Milley on whether the Pentagon would change its terror assessment of Afghanistan following the collapse of the U.S.-backed government. The two acknowledged their report to Congress in June—that Afghanistan contained only a “medium” risk of terror groups—was likely obsolete.
Individuals who had worked on assessing terror threats at the southern border told the Free Beacon that the surge of migrants has left border patrol officers ill-equipped to face the new terror challenge. Former Immigration and Customs Enforcement chief of staff Jon Feere said the record-setting influx of illegal border crossings will only exacerbate the threat.
“When it comes to cross-border illegal immigration that goes undetected, there is obviously no background check taking place,” Feere, who now works at the Center for Immigration Studies, said. “Customs and Border Protection apprehended foreign nationals from countries across the globe and that means there are likely many aliens from problematic countries getting past the border patrol already.”
Border patrol agents already complain about a lack of resources to adequately police the southern border. Biden administration officials have also come to acknowledge the strain. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas privately told border agents, “If our borders are the first line of defense, we’re going to lose and this is unsustainable,” according to Leaked Audio of his remarks.
More migrants were recorded crossing into the country in July—212,000—than at any point in the last 21 years. Illegal crossings jumped 13 percent from June, which previously held the 21-year record.
From the beginning of the United States of America’s war in Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, triggered by the September 11 attacks, American, and later NATO involvement went through four phases. The first phase was brief and only lasted for two months. As a result, the Taliban was defeated and al-Qaeda was decimated. The second phase, from early 2002 until 2008, was marked by the Bush Administration’s attempt to build a unified nation of the many ethnic groups, religious sects, tribes and clans of forty million Afghans. The third phase, under President Obama and his alleged foreign policy guru Vice President Joe Biden was basically designed to ignore the Taliban as a political/military force and to lead the transformation of Afghanistan from behind. The fourth phase, under President Trump, was about ending the war more or less honorably. The second, third and fourth phases were political and military failures.
The reasons for these tragic miscalculations were manifold. Most glaringly, Afghanistan has never been a state and a nation according to the West’s understanding. More brutality put it, Afghanistan as a state and as a nation has never existed. Moreover, with the exception of the first phase, the United States of America and NATO have never displayed the resolve to win decisively by completely eradicating the Taliban and to do the hard lifting of establishing the foundation for a central government. Finally, neither Washington, D.C. nor Brussels has laid down unequivocally the rules by which the successive Afghan governments should have ruled through competence, honesty and transparency.
Clearly, neither the Karzai nor the Ghani government has ever succeeded to extend their authority to the entire country and their armed forces were equally unsuccessful to effectively fight the Taliban by themselves. In the United States of America, the over politicization of the Afghan war, coupled with political, military and intelligence incompetence, made it impossible to forge a coherent and lasting strategy for Afghanistan. As nearly six decades ago in Vietnam, the United States of America has again faced national humiliation both at home and abroad. And as then, when the United States of America’s real crisis was not in Vietnam, today’s Afghanistan is the most recent and emotionally the most painful symptom of this great country’s catastrophic malaise at home.
Prior to analyzing the current situation from the American perspective, allow me a quick journey back to my past experiences. In my country of birth in Hungary, the Communist overlords finally realized in the early 1970s, that instead of loyal but incompetent political party hacks they needed educated individuals to run the bureaucracy, and made clear to me that I am “an eminently qualified, highly competent and indispensably useful screw in the machinery of the Socialist state.” In Germany, as a “Manager of a Civil Service Position,” in German Verwalter einer Beamtenstelle, I was told that regardless of me being a foreigner, Auslaender in German, the only thing that matters is my competent professionalism. When the United States Congress hired me from a German Institute at the end of August 1977, I was tossed into a pit of native as well as foreign-born incompetent liars claiming expertise in individual foreign countries. Their modus operandi to protect their jobs from the much better qualified newcomer culminated in first spreading the rumor that I am actually a “sleeping Soviet spy,” and then that I am not the person that I pretend to be. Following these totally groundless accusations, they tried to sabotage me by claiming that my analyses were biased by my anti-Communist leanings, and therefore, dead-wrong. In their pernicious efforts, they were enthusiastically supported by an equally incompetent and unprofessional department head, whose understanding of the world was near to zero. The only thing that prevented me from returning to Germany in disgust was a dual invitation from a Senator as well as the Supreme Court to advise them on international law and foreign policy.
Throughout my almost thirteen years of service in the American federal government, I have not encountered a more incompetent, yet arrogant bunch of bureaucrats, than most of the employees of the State Department. Young people in their twenties, fresh out of college or graduate school, were appointed desk officers for countries that they knew close to nothing, including the languages of those nations. My personal experience was that they were a community of desperate people in search of power and stable paychecks. The situation was barely more satisfactory on the higher levels. Ambassadors were appointed based on the size of their campaign contributions and Assistant Secretaries used their personal connections to land political appointments. Clearly, the State Department was a largely useless institution for the decision makers in the White House and in Congress.
To illustrate the utter idiocy of domestic ideology-driven personnel policies, again a personal experience. In the late 1970s, under the Carter Administration, I was called by a friend and senior adviser of the President regarding a high-level position with one of the top intelligence agencies. After I was interviewed for the position, the same person called me and said that he is sorry but the position is reserved by affirmative action for a Black person. To wit, the position required fluency in at least three languages spoken in the Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe and mindestens a Master’s degree from one of the major European universities. Needless to say that the position remained vacant throughout President Carter’s tenure and beyond. Unsurprisingly, American foreign policy and intelligence services have been a collection of discombobulated failures with few exceptions.
Afghanistan is the latest case in point in the humiliating disasters of the American foreign policy as well as military establishments, including the manifold intelligence agencies. Imbued with the destructive idiocy of Wokeism, including the Critical Race Theory, and guided by an overwhelming hatred for the United States of America, these hypocritical Knights of minority rights and intellectual madness have long been committed to kill individual freedoms, professional competence, as well as constitutional democracy in their fallacious quest to secure the country for their dictatorial minority rule.
The famous proverb of unknown origin says that a fish rots from the head down. This proverbial fish in the United States of America is President Joseph (Joe) Robinette Biden Jr. A man of gregarious disposition, but with well-known brainless intellect, he resembles an imbecile Doofus in Chief rather than a competent Commander in Chief. Moreover, with countless telltale signs of advanced dementia, hapless Joe has been ripe even before his presidency to the care of a closed mental institution and, following his election, to the invocation of the 25th Amendment. His laughably hollow and lying campaign slogans of “America is back,” “all out healing,” “national unity” and “inclusiveness through diversity” have been thrown out of the large French windows and doors of the White House as well as the numerous buildings of the federal government minutes after his return to the Oval Office. Instead of governing as a statesman, demented Joe has gone about fighting, like one possessed by evil spirits, the ghost of his predecessor. Gross falsifications of history under the guise of Black Awakening, slander of entire ethnic groups for their skin color, promoting the Marxist-Leninist “equity” deceptions, manipulating the lie about alleged White Racism combined with baselessly wild White supremacist/extremism/terrorism charges, using the English language to mislead an entire nation regarding illegal immigration, lawlessness as well as the shameful justification of outrightly criminal behavior, and the corrupt manipulation of law enforcement agencies by Marxist political agitators have been de rigueur du jour since January 20, 2021.
Demented Joe’s appointments, under the catchphrase of “diversity,” have populated the federal bureaucracy with woefully incompetent political hacks, such as his Vice President Kamala Harris, who is a huge embarrassment for her gross amateurishness and uncultured hysterical public as well as private behavior, his Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was called an incompetent bureaucrat by the late Senator John McCain already in 2014, his Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, whose most important contribution to the cabinet is his Blackness and his eagerness to introduce neoracist political correctness in the military, his Attorney General Merrick Garland, who has proven that Senator Mitch McConnell was right by opposing him to the Supreme Court, his Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, whose value is that she has contributed to the diversity of the Biden cabinet, his Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, who has gazed to commerce through the lens of her Marxist ideology, his Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, who knows nothing about health care, his Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge, who has been a political and professional nonentity, his Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who as a mayor of South Bend was incapable of managing the traffic in his small town, his Secretary of Education Dr. Miguel Cardona, who has used his perch to fight alleged White Supremacy and has promoted the most unscientific idiocy of Critical Race Theory, his Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who has created a royal mess of illegal immigration, and his National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who has not have a single right foreign policy recommendation during his disastrous professional career, among others.
The combined results of Biden’s idiocy and his coterie’s Wokeism have been the egregious
domestic and foreign policy failures of his administration since January 20, 2021. Demented Joe’s domestic agenda can be reduced to a single sentence – to make the federal government the owner of the entire American economy, finance and spiritual realm by aligning them with the most radical Marxist-Leninist Woke policies. Internationally, this demented president, in tow with his incompetent collection of advisers, is determined to destroy his country’s reputation to the fullest by cutting ties with America’s allies and appeasing its enemies by capitulating to their demands. In order to hide their incompetence, continuity, predictability and reliability of policies were thrown out of the window with zero concerns for present as well as future consequences or dangers for the United States of America. Demented Joe’s Administration turned foreign policy into a race-based partisan issue, with absolute disregard for the United States of America’s national security interests.
Personal virtues, the glorious attributes for the American success stories, such as patriotism, education, industriousness, respectability, truthfulness, compliance with the laws, religious faith, have been labelled as inherently White Racism. Demonstrating proficiency in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Geography and History have been declared the arrogant manifestations of White Supremacy, which are not needed for minority students to succeed in life. While exercising dictatorial harshness toward Americans concerning COVID-19 restrictions, foreigners infected with the coronavirus can storm into the United States of America with impunity in the millions. While still pursuing unsubstantiated allegations regarding former President Trump, the FBI is in relentless pursuit after the so-called January 6th perpetrators with reckless abandon. Meanwhile, demented Joe’s worthless son Hunter is selling his laughably primitive and amateurish paintings for half-a-million dollars to undisclosed buyer. The United States of America is drowning in the hurricane of moral, political, financial and establishment sponsored corruption.
In light of America’s domestic tragedies, it is painful to state that the Afghan crisis is exactly what demented Joe, the Democrat Party and their extremist partners in Black Lives Matter, Antifa as well as in other like-minded organizations wanted. Having declared former President Trump the enemy of America and a hostage of Russia, the Biden Administration named the majority of Americans as the “common foes we face,” and not China, where the Biden family enriched themselves, or Pakistan, which supported the Taliban politically, militarily and financially. To wit, the real domestic terrorists of Black Lives Matter, Antifa and other Marxist organizations that spewed anger, resentment, hatred, extremism, lawlessness and violence have been shielded by thuggish politicians as well as corrupt law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
As demented Joe said: “Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.” In reality, he has meant that those who capitulate to Wokeism will be spared, but those who resist will mercilessly be eliminated. Clearly, the war that is going on in the United States of America has always been about culture, and Woke culture has always viewed Afghanistan as the graveyard of America as it has been for almost two hundred forty years.
Yet, the present societal schism goes much deeper than party or group affiliation. It has already penetrated education from kindergarten to graduate schools, from domestic politics to international affairs. If the activists of the Democrat Party, members of the Squad, Black Lives Matter and Antifa would have their ways and say – there would not be the United States of America for long in normal existence. Adding insult to injury, demented Joe and his incompetent administration well on its way to transform the United States of America into a Stalinist despotism, complete with minority totalitarianism, political subordination to the Democrat Party, collectivization of the economy, racial cleansing and religious persecution.
The majority of Americans have finally started to realize this truth in its cruel and ruthless fullness. And they are fighting back. Because, if demented Joe and his administration will manage to finish “vaccinating” all the voters with their anti-American and anti-Democratic nonsense, it might be given the opportunity to establish a hell on earth for the most decent freedom loving people in history.
Yet, when the sun is covered by impenetrably dark clouds, nature can still show the shining stars in the night sky. The timeline of the United States of America’s withdrawal and the subsequent Taliban advances have proved that the Critical Race Theory about the intrinsic origin of White Racism and the false narrative that America is fundamentally racist, lack any real foundation in facts, and as such scientifically ahistorical and in reality a Big Lie. Ibram X. Kendy, the author of “How To Be An Antiracist,” essentially claims that to fight racism one must turn himself into a super racist. Then, the super racists, the good guys according to Kendi, can save the world from the United States of America by changing the “very underpinnings and structures and systems of this country.” Clearly, this moron, who masquerades as a scholar, could not explain why only upon the withdrawal of American troops have summary executions, mass rapes and other extremely evil acts have been committed in the name of Islam by the Taliban. Indeed, evil has existed in many places of the world before White people set foot there. Albeit in an amateurish way, the United States of America intended to better the lives of the Afghan people. The waves of desperate Afghans who want to leave mainly to the United States of America are the best proof against the idiotic notion of “Institutionalized and Systematic Racism” and the allegedly ruthless “White Supremacy” advocated by mostly hypoctritical Black semi-intellectuals.
In closing, as demented Joe has claimed repeatedly, “The buck stops with me.” Paraphrasing his statement, the buck stops with the American people. Demented Joe, his incompetent administration and all those responsible for the utterly botched withdrawal, must go! After that, the American people must wise up and finally begin to create a competent and accountable civil service in place of a power hungry federal bureaucracy.
Iran touts US failure in Afghanistan as it increases enrichment of weapons-grade uranium
Iran is set to hold a series of war drills with Russia and China, as the hardline regime celebrates the United States’ bungled evacuation in Afghanistan and boosts its enrichment of nuclear weapons-grade uranium to historically high levels.
Iranian and Russian leaders announced on Monday that their countries, along with China, will hold joint maritime war exercises in the Persian Gulf later this year or early in 2022, according to Iran’s state-controlled media. The countries said they will focus on “shipping security and combating piracy” as the United States reduces its military footprint in the region following its marred withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The announcement comes as the rogue countries step up their involvement in war-torn Afghanistan amid a hurried effort by the Biden administration to evacuate U.S. personnel from the country. Iran, Russia, and China have all expressed an interest in replacing the United States as a powerbroker in the nation and working with the newly installed Taliban government. Iran’s foreign ministry announced that “Iran is in contact with all parties in Afghanistan to pave the ground for dialogue and reconciliation” and that the Russian and Chinese embassies remain functioning.
Iran’s new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, celebrated what he called America’s “military failure” in Afghanistan last week, saying the Biden administration’s “military defeat and its withdrawal must become an opportunity to restore life, security, and durable peace in Afghanistan.” Iranian officials also have sought to increase ties with the Taliban, historically a regional enemy, as it expands its footprint in the region.
As the situation in Afghanistan deteriorates for the United States, Iran has increased its enrichment of uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported late last week that Iran produced uranium metals that were enriched up to 20 percent purity for the first time in its history. It also amped up its uranium enrichment program to 60 percent purity, a threshold level that allows the regime to produce the fuel needed for a nuclear weapon.
The move was met with consternation by the United States and its European allies, but they did not take any steps to sanction Iran or issue penalties for its breach of the 2015 nuclear accord. The United States said Iran must cease its enrichment, but would not go further than a public reproach. France, Germany, and the United Kingdom also acknowledged their concerns on the IAEA report in a joint statement on Thursday.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told the Washington Free Beacon that “the botched Afghanistan drawdown is a propaganda coup for Tehran.”
The Islamic Republic “has long advanced the idea that America can be forced from the region through a sustained death-by-a-thousand-cuts military strategy,” Taleblu said. “Moreover, it is trying to get local actors who are pro-American to accommodate rising Iranian power by saying those who work with Washington will one day be abandoned.”
Iran’s latest enrichment levels are a signal to the U.S. administration that the country “is increasingly comfortable with escalation and has survived peak pressure,” Taleblu said. “Would you be afraid of a state which has denigrated instruments of national power like economic sanctions and military force in a bid to change your national security policy?”
As Iran increases its regional footprint and funds terrorist groups operating in and around Afghanistan, the Biden administration is pursuing negotiations aimed at securing a revamped nuclear agreement.
The State Department has made clear that it remains open to talks even as Iran refuses to come back to the bargaining table. Tehran wants full-scale sanctions relief and access to hard currency, but claims the Biden administration is not going far enough in its concessions, which are rumored to include the removal of sanctions on Iran’s financial system and other sources of revenue for the regime.
U.S. Iran envoy Robert Malley said last week the Biden administration is prepared to present Iran with a new nuclear deal should talks on reentering the 2015 accord fall apart, according to Politico.
Iran recently enlisted U.S. ally Japan in its pursuit of sanctions relief. Japanese foreign minister Toshimitsu Motegi landed in Tehran over the weekend to discuss ways both countries can pressure the Biden administration into granting Iran sanctions relief.
“To revive the [nuclear deal], the United States must abandon its excessive demands,” Motegi was quoted as saying following meetings with high-ranking Iranian government officials.
By The Hill•
Lebanon is facing a dangerous combination of accelerating crises — economic, political and societal. Although Lebanon is a small country, important issues for U.S. national interest and geo-strategy are at stake. Yet, currently, American Middle East foreign policy is devoted to the single obsession of the Iran negotiations, leaving little oxygen for other matters. This is a mistake. The Biden administration should develop a more nuanced engagement with the region and especially a robust response to Lebanon’s pending collapse.
The Lebanese currency has lost close to 90 percent of its value, pushing much of the country below the poverty line, with many families relying on remittances from relatives abroad. Yet even those lifelines cannot make up for the shortages in commodities: gasoline, medications and food are all in short supply. Add to this a crumbling infrastructure that can supply electricity for only a few hours every day.
Meanwhile, a political stalemate blocks the formation of an effective government that could institute reforms that might alleviate some of the problems. Instead, the political class, largely viewed as incorrigibly corrupt, is making no effort to meet the needs of the public. One bright light is the emergence of vibrant oppositional forces. But they remain fragmented, and elections will not take place until next year.
Leadership change may therefore be too far in the future to rescue the crumbling institutions that once enjoyed a strong international reputation, especially Lebanese universities and hospitals. Now the talented personnel on which those institutions depend are trying to leave for better paying jobs abroad. After the troubled decades of civil war and occupations, after the devastation of COVID-19 and the massive destruction of the explosion in the port of Beirut on Aug. 4, 2020, this already fragile country faces even greater disorder.
Given the extent of the suffering, there is every reason to provide humanitarian assistance to Lebanon, as the United States is already doing. The U.S. also provides important training support to the Lebanese armed forces, although the scope of that mission has been shrinking. Otherwise, American engagement is quite limited. Washington should do more and put Lebanon higher on the list of foreign policy priorities for four reasons
1) Grand Strategy: Lebanon presents a clear case of the deleterious consequences of a pivot away from the region, given the reality of great power competition. If the U.S. does not provide leadership, it opens the door for other powers, notably Russia. Its naval repair facility in Tartus, Syria, is less than a 40-mile drive from the Lebanese port of Tripoli, which could be ripe for Moscow’s taking. Lebanon could become one more stepping-stone for Russia’s advance in the Middle East, unless the U.S. reasserts its role there.
2) Terrorism: The discrepancy between the degradation of living conditions in Lebanon and the immobility of the political class can lead to social unrest, a breeding ground for the sort of Islamist terrorism that has plagued the larger region. One should not discount the possibility of a resurgence of ISIS or intentional spillover effects from the Syrian civil war, which led to bombings in Beirut and Tripoli only eight years ago. The more such violence proliferates, the greater the chance that terror incubated in the region can spread beyond it, including to the U.S.
3) Refugees: Unless the Lebanese crises are addressed, the resulting social disorder is likely to produce a new wave of refugees, fleeing the ravages of a collapsed economy or, in a worst-case scenario, the resurgence of sectarian conflict. The Assad regime in Syria is not above provoking violence in Lebanon in order to achieve the sort of demographic reengineering it has undertaken at home, where it has forced targeted populations to flee, a cynical form of ethnic cleansing. The U.S. should be concerned about the destabilizing effects of renewed refugee flows into allies such as Jordan and Turkey, already hosting large refugee populations, or into the European Union, where the 2015 refugee wave continues to have disruptive political repercussions.
4) Iran: A collapse of the Lebanese state can only benefit Iran and its most anti-American political forces. Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hezbollah, might see an opportunity to seize power directly or, more strategically, it might prefer to consolidate its control in its strongholds and let the rest of the country dissipate, precisely in order to demonstrate the weakness of western democracy. In either case, Tehran would win, unless the U.S. engages in strategic ways to address Lebanon’s dilemmas.
Arguments that it is in the U.S. national interest to engage more strongly in Lebanon run counter to current foreign policy predispositions in Washington. A prevailing orientation deprioritizes the Middle East in general in order to shift attention to the Indo-Pacific. But that viewpoint does not need to lead to a full-scale abandoning of the Middle East that hands the region over to America’s great power adversaries.
In addition, the Biden administration views the region primarily in terms of Iran and a renewed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Many Lebanese understand this and correctly fear that Hezbollah will benefit from a windfall when the U.S. lifts sanctions on Iran. There is no indication that the U.S. negotiation team is seriously demanding a termination of Iran’s regional destabilization campaigns, including its support for Hezbollah. Yet getting to a new deal with Tehran without such a constraint basically means appeasing Iran by trading away Lebanese sovereignty.
American national interest, including American values, requires a different path: Instead of misusing Lebanon as an accommodation to Tehran, the U.S. should make a stand in Lebanon, with policies designed to renew its democracy (and purge its corruption) and to protect its sovereignty by diminishing Hezbollah, as first steps toward pushing back against Iran’s broader expansionist ambitions.
Lebanon is a small country, but the current crisis has outsized geo-strategic implications for the U.S.
Led by Florida’s Marco Rubio, a group of GOP senators said Friday they would be reintroducing legislation intended to force other countries to take a hard line on Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist groups whose mission is to bring about the destruction of Israel.
The Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act, which already has the support of almost a dozen of Rubio’s GOP colleagues, is a call for tough measures against Israel’s opponents that runs counter to the softer approach being taken by the Biden Administration.
“As these terrorist groups continue to show zero regard for the loss of innocent lives and threaten our ally, Israel, I’m proud to reintroduce this bill which seeks to impose sanctions against foreign nationals and governments who are actively providing material support to these groups,” Rubio said. “We must hold accountable the individuals who are aiding the terrorist activities of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.”
The legislation under consideration requires the imposition of sanctions on countries, individuals, entities, and governments that provide support to anti-Israel terror groups and requires the U.S. president to send to Congress an assessment regarding America’s foreign allies’ diligence in choking off the stream of terror dollars that finance activities such as the recent weeklong rocket attack waged by Hamas against civilian Israeli targets.
“As our ally Israel continues to stand its ground in the face of ongoing terrorist attacks, we must step up to hold these terrorist groups and their enablers to account,” Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, who was one of the bill’s earliest co-sponsors said in a release. “It’s incumbent on responsible nations to do their part to prevent material support from reaching those who desire to destroy our ally. This bill sends a clear message that anyone who aids Israel’s attackers will face stiff consequences.”
“During the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, Hamas launched thousands of rockets intended to kill Israeli civilians. Hamas, a terrorist organization supported by Iran, also put the lives of Palestinian civilians at risk,” said Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, who added the proposed legislation reaffirms “the United States’ commitment to combatting global terrorism.”
“Israel is one of our closest allies and deserves our support in countering these persistent threats to its security,” North Dakota GOP Sen. John Hoeven, another principal sponsor of the bill said. “Our legislation will sanction those who support terrorism against Israel while holding accountable those nations that do not take seriously the threats posed by Hamas and other terrorist groups.”
“America will always stand unapologetically with our great ally, Israel, and against all that wish it harm,” Florida Sen. Rick Scott said. “I’m proud to again join Senator Rubio on this important legislation to clearly demonstrate the United States’ intolerance for violent terrorist groups like Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and hold accountable all who support them.”
Joining Rubio as additional original co-sponsors of the Palestinian International Terrorism Support Prevention Act are Kansas GOP Sen. Jerry Moran, Indiana’s Todd Young, and Mike Braun, Iowa’s Joni Ernst, John Boozman of Arkansas, Cindy Hyde-Smith, and Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Oklahoma’s James Lankford, Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn, and Bill Haggerty and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
By now most armchair pundits and faux Mideast experts have chimed in on the violence in Israel and Gaza. Some of the most frivolous comments come from misguided hyper woke celebrities and athletes who seek to establish their expertise when they know virtually nothing. For example, Trevor Noah, on MSNBC’s Joy Reid show claimed “Jewish Supremacy” was the cause of the violence, rather than the thousands of rockets aimed at Israeli civilians. To be clear, they are not misguided for feeling sympathy for the Palestinians living in Gaza, but rather, they are cartoonishly misguided for blaming Israel for the suffering.
The Israel/Palestinian conflict is among the most vexing foreign policy issues. However, there is nothing complex about the need to recognize that Hamas deserves absolute culpability for the suffering of average Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. I say “average” because poverty, unemployment and illiteracy are rampant in Gaza, but not among the Hamas elite.
Hamas has a specific and obvious raison d’être — to kill as many Jews as possible. No mind reading is required to know this — it is Hamas’ explicitly stated goal. They spend most of their foreign aid money not on much needed infrastructure, COVID vaccinations, or education. Instead, their priority is building illegal smuggling tunnels from which they launch attacks, and unguided rocket technology from Iran to indiscriminately target Israeli civilians.
Hamas prefers using the money it receives from well-meaning nations including the US, and many European and Middle Eastern nations to launch attacks, murder homosexuals, oppress women, and prevent truly democratic institutions from taking root. If you doubt this, try going to Gaza when things settle down and attempt to form a new political party that supports equal rights for women and homosexuals and that actually seeks peace.
Before the George W. Bush years, Hamas was a rogue terror group with no official power. However, the unintended consequences of the Bush foreign policy of rightly condemning the PLO/Arafat regime for rampant corruption and an unwillingness to make peace, unfortunately led to the election of Hamas in Gaza. Thus, the only time Gazans were afforded an actual choice began Hamas’ reign of terror.
Since those faithful years, Palestinians have been living in a prison of their own making. In fact, a significant percentage of Hamas rockets fired at Israel did not even make it to Israel from Gaza, killing or injuring many Palestinians. This is, of course, of no consequence to Hamas leaders who see average Gazans as pawns to manipulate in order to maintain power. But it is even more troubling that liberal celebrities and media organizations don’t care and end up acting as a shield to the monstrous actions of Hamas.
No matter how pro-Palestinian one may be, to normalize the actions of Hamas, as so many liberal journalists are doing (and a few folks among the alt-Right), is to directly oppose and fight against the hope of a better future for Gazans.
As usual, support for Israel is nearly unanimous among the GOP. While some Republicans want foreign aid generally reduced across the board as a budgetary matter, none would disagree with Israel’s inherent right to self-defense.
This is juxtaposed to an increasingly hostile Democratic Party who once were part of the bedrock support of Israel. Now, its Middle East policy is increasingly driven by younger Democrats who are extremely woke and see Israel as the automatic aggressor, regardless of the facts. For some reason Hamas escapes any real blame.
Over the last few years of President Trump’s term, the world saw a flowering of new peace arrangements between Israel and Arab nations, including but not limited to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Morocco. Amazingly, UAE officials have threatened to cut investment in Gaza if Hamas does not immediately commit to complete calm. They have admitted what many have known for some time, that Hamas policies are hurting the people of Gaza. This is a far more enlightened understanding than that of the Washington Post or foreign policy professors at Harvard University.
The irony is that during this time of immense political and security challenges facing Israel, it is the Republicans who stand steadfast with our ally Israel. As Democratic support for Israel continues to wane, even “pro-Israel” Democrats are more apt to criticize the GOP for “making the Israel issue political” rather than criticizing their own for being increasingly radical and woke while ignoring fact.
For Israel, the choice is the same today as it was decades ago when Golda Meir said: “If we have to choose between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.”
Democrats say Muslim terrorists aren’t terrorists, but their political opponents are.
The Biden administration responded to protests against its stolen election by embedding a domestic extremism office into the National Security Council. The man in charge of making it happen, Joshua Geltzer, had previously denied that Black Lives Matter was a terrorist threat and had attacked the Trump administration’s response to Antifa and BLM violence in Portland.
That means that the only domestic extremists the NSC will be fighting are Republicans.
Even while the Biden administration is preparing to double down on Obama’s abuse of the national security state to target his political opponents, it’s also giving real terrorists a pass.
Joe Biden, whose biggest bundlers included the Iran Lobby, announced he was ending support for American allies fighting the Houthis, and then went even further by preparing to remove the terrorist organization whose motto is, “Death to America”, which took American hostages and tried to kill American sailors, from the list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.
The motto of Iran’s Houthi Jihadis is, “Allahu Akbar, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.” The Houthis took over parts of Yemen as a result of the chaos unleashed by Obama’s pro-Islamist Arab Spring. Since then they’ve been engaged in a protracted war while causing a local famine by confiscating food from the local population.
Last year, the Trump administration had finally secured the release of three American hostages, Sandra Loli, an American aid worker who had been held for 3 years, another American who had been held for a year, and the body of a third American, in exchange for 240 Houthis, including three dozen Islamic terrorists who had been trained in the use of missiles and drones by Iran.
Like those launched at the USS Mason.
The Houthis lived up to their “Death to America” slogan by repeatedly launching cruise missiles at the USS Mason which had been protecting shipping in the area. And they lived up to the second half of their slogan by ethnically cleansing the remaining local Jewish population, locking them up, and confiscating their homes and land. Local reports stated that the Houthis were “cutting off water & electricity to Jewish homes and preventing Jews from purchasing food.”
“No Jew would be allowed to stay here,” one of the Jewish refugees said.
The Iran-backed Islamic terrorists fight using 18,000 child soldiers. The soldiers, many abducted, some as young as 10, are taught to hate America and to kill enemies of Iran.
None of this stopped Biden’s State Department from taking the Houthis off the terror list.
“Secretary Blinken has been clear about undertaking an expeditious review of the designations of Ansarallah,” the State Department claimed. “After a comprehensive review, we can confirm that the Secretary intends to revoke the Foreign Terrorist Organization and Specially Designated Global Terrorist designations of Ansarallah.”
‘Ansarallah’ or ‘Defenders of Allah’ is what the Houthis call themselves. Blinken had only been confirmed on Tuesday. By next Friday, he had already somehow completed the “comprehensive review”, amid all the other minor business like China, Russia, and a global pandemic, and decided that the Islamic terrorists whose motto is “Death to America” aren’t really terrorists.
How can the Biden administration deny that Islamic Jihadis backed by Iran who attacked Americans are terrorists? The State Department claimed that this, “has nothing to do with our view of the Houthis and their reprehensible conduct, including attacks against civilians and the kidnapping of American citizens.” Not to mention the attacks on the USS Mason.
But the Biden administration isn’t even going to pretend to care about attacks on our military.
The Bidenites are claiming that they’re taking the Houthis, whom they don’t deny are terrorists, off the list of designated terrorist groups because of the “humanitarian consequences”.
That’s a lie, no matter how often you hear it in the media, because Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the United States would be providing licenses to “humanitarian activities conducted by non-governmental organizations in Yemen and to certain transactions and activities related to exports to Yemen of critical commodities like food and medicine.”
That’s despite the fact that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen was caused by the Houthis.
Nevertheless the media, echoing propaganda from the Iran Lobby and Qatar, a close terrorist ally of Iran, has falsely claimed that the Houthis are the victims of the Yemen famine. A number of politicians, mostly Democrats, but some Republicans, as well as various aid groups, have pushed this same disinformation campaign about the causes of the Yemen famine.
America and its allies have spent billions providing food, medicine, and other humanitarian aid to Yemen. That aid has been seized by the Houthis who have used it for their own troops or to resell on the black market. This is a familiar problem from Syria to Somalia, and aid groups have refused to honestly address their complicity in aiding the terrorists who caused the crisis.
There’s no money in admitting that the aid an organization is providing is being seized by the terrorists, prolonging the conflict and worsening the humanitarian crisis. Some aid organizations share the same goal as the Houthis of worsening the crisis because it boosts their donations.
That’s why international aid organizations don’t want to talk about the Houthis taking their food donations, or about their use of child soldiers. “It’s a taboo,” an anonymous aid official had said.
When Secretary Pompeo announced that the United States was finally designating the Houthis a foreign terrorist organization, the United Nations took the lead in claiming that it would cause a humanitarian crisis. But the UN’s World Food Program had already admittedthat its food shipments weren’t getting to the starving people because the Houthis were intercepting them.
The Middle East director for UNICEF also admitted that the Houthis were seizing food.
An Associated Press investigation found entire stores seling “cooking oil and flour displaying the U.N. food program’s WFP logo.” The former Houthi education minister said that 15,000 food baskets that were supposed to go to hungry families instead went to the Houthi terrorists whom the Biden administration is defending. Massive amounts of aid have been pumped into Yemen, and the famine has only grown worse because the Houthis have used starvation as a weapon.
The only way to end the famine is to end Iran’s grip on Yemen through its Houthi terrorists.
That’s obviously not what Biden or the Democrats have in mind. The loudest Democrat voices against designating the Houthis as a terrorist group have a troubling history with Iran.
“Reversing the designation is an important decision that will save lives and, combined with the appointment of a Special Envoy, offers hope that President Biden is committed to bringing the war to an end,” Senator Chris Murphy tweeted.
Murphy had been among the loudest voices against the designation.
And Murphy had met with Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last year. That same year, he had advocated lowering sanctions on Iran for “humanitarian reasons”. Biden had also joined the push to use the pandemic as a pretext for reducing sanctions on the terror state.
That same year, the Left succeeded in forcing out Rep. Elliot Engel, one of the few remaining pro-Israel Democrats, and replaced him with the militantly anti-Israel Rep. Jamaal Bowman, whose election was backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez and her antisemitic ‘Squad’.
Engel, who had served as Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, was replaced by Rep. Gregory Meeks, a strong backer of the Iran Deal. Meeks’ position was cheered by Iran Lobby groups. As far back as 2009, Meeks had declared at a hearing, “I have developed a tremendous appreciation for the work of the National Iranian American Council. I am pleased that we will hear the perspective of NIAC’s President, Mr. Trita Parsi.”
Emails released allegedly showed Parsi telling Iran’s Foreign Minister, “I am having a meeting with Gilchrest and Meeks, and they asked for our assistance in getting some communication going between the parliamentarians.”
Speaking to the Islamic Republic News Agency, the official state news agency of the Islamic terrorist state, Chairman Meeks allegedly stated that he was willing to travel to Iran and had been engaged in dialogue with Iranian legislators.
Meeks took the lead in attacking the designation of the Houthi Islamic terrorists as terrorists, arguing that, “No solution in Yemen will be sustainable unless the Houthis are involved.”
And that gets at the real reason why Biden and Democrats oppose the designation.
It’s not about humanitarian aid, which would have kept on going anyway, only to be stolen by the Houthis. It’s about supporting Iran’s bid to take over parts of Yemen in order to control shipping and tighten the grip of the Islamic terrorist regime over the entire region.
The ‘diplomatic’ solution advocated by Biden and the Democrats would finalize Iran’s grip over parts of Yemen. Designating the Houthis as terrorists would get in the way of another in a series of Islamist dirty deals with Iran that began with Obama and that will continue on under Biden.
Even while the Democrats insist loudly that the Houthis must be part of the solution in Yemen, they just as vocally cry that the Republicans must be isolated and eliminated in America.
The Democrats militarized D.C. with an armed occupation and are criminalizing political dissent. They have claimed that one riot, after a year full of them by their own activist wing, requires a permanent state of emergency that will be run through the National Security Council.
The Biden administration is not only taking the Houthis, and likely other Islamic terrorist groups, off the terror list, it’s putting the domestic political opposition on its terror list. This is an extension of the same Obama policy that illegally shipped foreign cash to Iran even while it was using the NSA to spy on pro-Israel members of Congress and on the Trump campaign.
The Democrats are happy to fight terrorism by designating their domestic political opponents as terrorists while removing the “Death to America” Houthis who have kidnapped and killed Americans, who fired on the USS Mason, and ethnically cleansed Jews, from the terror list.
And what do the Houthis plan to do with their newfound support from the Biden administration?
In addition to sanctioning the Houthis, the Trump administration sanctioned three of their leaders, beginning with Abdul Malik al-Houthi. The Houthi leader has made it clear that he intends to build up the same missile program that was used to attack the USS Mason.
“To have rockets that could reach far beyond Riyadh, this is a great achievement,” he said, referring to the Saudi capital.
He also promised to send terrorists to fight against Israel.
“Many of Yemen’s tribesmen are ambitious to fight against Israel, and they are looking for the day to participate along with the freemen of the Islamic nation against the Israeli enemy,”
This is the terrorist group that the Biden administration and the Democrats are bailing out even while they’re criminalizing the Republican political opposition as terrorists.
“Death to America” is something that the Houthis and their Democrat supporters can agree on.
That’s what we all said nearly twenty years ago while struggling to cope with our grief. Since the days of George Washington, we’d thought of ourselves as more or less removed from what he called “messy, foreign entanglements,” protected from the rest of the world by two great oceans and divine providence.
We’d jumped into the thicket a time or two. America saved the world at least twice during the 20th century, probably three times given our willingness to contest an expensive, global Cold War which occasionally turned hot in places like Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East at the cost of our greatest treasure: the young men and women sent to fight.
Was it strange that we never asked to be thanked for it? No, that’s just the way we are. We want to live our lives in peace, left alone to make our own choices, secure in our liberties as God gave them to us. We flirted with the building of empires but that really wasn’t for us. We wanted to be, and often were, the good example for others to follow.
Then came 9/11. A group of religious fanatics hijacked four U.S.-flagged airliners, turning them into flying missiles aimed straight at the heart of our political and commercial institutions. Two of them hit New York’s Twin Towers with such explosive force the buildings crumbled to the ground as if they were made of sand.
A third jetliner reportedly headed for the White House crashed instead into the Pentagon. On the fourth plane, the passengers who’d learned what had happened on the other three revolted against their captors. The ensuing struggle meant their plane, instead of piercing the dome of the U.S. Capitol as planned, broke apart in a field in Pennsylvania.
“Never forget,” we said afterward. “Never forget the everyday Americans and the others from all walks of life who perished that day,” we said. “The people who represented the multitude of differences between Americans but were, for a brief moment, united by their humanity.”
“Never forget,” we said about the first responders from the police and fire departments and emergency techs in New York City, Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and rural Pennsylvania who came to the aid of those injured, dying, or dead. Especially those who died that day because their jobs had them rushing into the burning buildings rather than out of them.
America, we forgot—and we should be ashamed.
Over the last decade, we’ve watched as the nation turned in on itself. First responders are being shunned, even assassinated. In California this past weekend, so-called peaceful protestors gathered outside the hospital where two Los Angeles County deputies who’d been ambushed were being treated, shouting their hopes the officers would die.
This didn’t start with Donald Trump. This didn’t start with Barack Obama. It started outside politics, in the American culture where somehow we’ve been divided up, piecemeal, into groups airing grievances. Left or right, it makes no difference. We’ve allowed ourselves to be pitted against one another, and we should be ashamed.
We’ve forgotten that in America each life matters. We’re all created equal, as individuals, not assigned at birth into groups because of skin color, economic status, education, or biological sex. We are an imperfect nation, to be sure, but almost certainly less imperfect than any other.
The fanatics responsible for the murder of more than 3,000 of our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers on that dark day nineteen years ago didn’t attack us in protest of the country’s history of systemic racism. Or because women get paid less on average than men. Or because some people think you should have to show a government-issued photo ID that proves you are who you say you are before you can exercise your right to vote. Pick any complaint you want; it isn’t why America was attacked.
We were attacked because, out of all the nations of the world, America stands for the idea that all men and women are by their birthright free and should be treated equally under the law. We were attacked because of our ideas about religious liberty—that different faiths can coexist respectfully and peacefully—and because we believe women have just as much right as men to pursue an education. And for many other reasons, all of which have to do with what is best about us, because of the ideas that make our civilization strong. We are one nation and, fundamentally, we all matter. In the heat of the moment, we’ve forgotten that. Yet rather than dwell much longer on our errors, let’s come together in our strengths to make this nation all it can be, for now and for generations to come.
Back in January, Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was talking openly of the need to rebalance the allocation of U.S. forces around the world.
As he explained it, the need to address potential military threats from Russia and Chinese expansionism in the Pacific Basin may have to be given precedence over American commitments elsewhere.
Gen. Milley’s remarks were footnoted by the suggestion any changes were, at that point at least, notional and would be presented to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and through him to the president as options for the future. Nonetheless, many see his comments as foreshadowing a major change in the importance the U.S. has assigned the war on terror.
President Trump entered office vowing to bring home many of the U.S. troops pursuing terrorists and prosecuting “unwinnable” wars.
He can take pride in the fact he is keeping those promises, having successfully subdued if not eliminated ISIS, entered into continuing negotiations aimed at allowing the U.S. to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan and, by using a drone strike to take out Iranian Revolutionary Guard leader and terrorist mastermind Qassem Soleimani, perhaps turned an important corner in Iraq.
None of that justifies a U.S. withdrawal from its commitments in the Middle East or North Africa. Both regions are rife with the kind of radical Islamic extremism from which anti-U.S. terror cells develop.
The raging conflagrations in these regions, feared by many, may have cooled to embers — but extinguishing those embers will take time and is linked inexorably to the same future conflicts to which Gen. Milley suggests the U.S. may need to shift its focus.
In Africa, we have assisted our allies there in the fight against extremism. The nations of North Africa have moved in our direction. Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco have vanquished terrorists within their borders and, with U.S. training and logistical support, proven themselves invaluable in the fight against those threatening the entire region.
To abandon them would be a mistake that would be, ironically, to Beijing’s benefit.
The Chinese, as we’ve most recently seen in the way they have conducted themselves through the coronavirus crisis, cannot be trusted. They operate by their own rules when it suits them, no matter what.
In many ways, they are economic partners with the West. They trade with us and we with them, but they are not our allies and cannot be treated as such.
From a national security perspective, we must remain vigilant – which is why reducing the limited U.S. troop commitments in North Africa would be a major mistake. If America leaves, China moves in – as it has been doing all over the developing world while engaging in rapprochement with Washington.
The current troop levels are small as such things go, fewer than 10,000 spread out among different countries on different missions. Merely by being there, however, the American military prevents the creation of a vacuum into which China would be glad to move to increase its economic and military presence on the continent.
This would fit perfectly into Beijing’s long-term strategic plans. Through its trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative, the Chinese have been “helping” the developing world build commercial and civil infrastructure since 2013.
By acting as a predatory lender, China has gotten its hooks into nearly 70 counties and international organizations, saddling them with projects so expensive that the money borrowed cannot possibly be repaid.
The U.S. Agency for International Development has been pushing back against this initiative by sending teams of advisers into countries to demonstrate that anyone considering saying “yes” to China is making a bad deal. But that’s not enough.
To prevent the creation of satellite outposts available to further Beijing’s global ambitions requires something more than accountants and attorneys.
Any hopes we once had of the world becoming a safer place with the fall of the Berlin Wall must now, unfortunately, be held in abeyance.
A new global order is forming, something President Trump rightly recognizes and is preparing for militarily as well as economically.
Pulling out of commitments that don’t make sense and asking our allies to shoulder a greater burden of the cost of those that do are steps in the right direction. Pulling out of commitments that do make sense, like our limited but successful activities in North Africa, would be folly and we’d regret it later if we do.
According to the AFP, Gen. Milley said “economy of forces does not mean zero” and that Washington was not pulling out of Africa completely. Let’s hope Secretary Esper and the president affirm this soon.
Democratic leaders didn't act against Obama's military overreach as he launched attacks across the Middle East and North Africa.
Soon after the United States delivered a major blow to Iran’s terror infrastructure Friday by ridding the world of Qassem Soleimani, top general of the country’s brutal Quds Force, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced her intention to limit President Donald Trump’s ability to take further military action against Tehran.
Even after several Democrats indicated they wanted to be more deliberative with any such effort following Iran’s retaliatory strikes on U.S. service members in Iraq on Tuesday, she persisted in holding a vote on a war powers resolution Thursday. “The administration took this action without the consultation of Congress and without respect for Congress’ war powers granted to it by the Constitution,” Pelosi said of the Soleimani strike in explaining the purpose of the measure.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched.
The speaker’s insistence on introducing the resolution even after tensions eased up Wednesday suggests she believes strongly that presidents must have a specific authorization for the use of military force (known as an AUMF) from Congress before engaging in military action. But she doesn’t believe that. The Democrats’ attacks on Trumpfor the Soleimani strike simply show, once again, that their views of executive power depend on the party membership of the executive in power. That’s no way to protect Americans’ national security.
During President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, he never received his own congressional authorization in the form of an AUMF for military operations he launched in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan. Yet, Pelosi didn’t complain then about this complete disregard for Congress’ authority.
Instead, Obama simply relied on the two AUMFs granted his predecessor — the 2001 AUMF authorizing strikes against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and those who aided them, and the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War — as sufficient justification for just about any military action he wanted to take in the Middle East and North Africa.
As such, Trump actually has the better argument that the existing AUMFs gave him the power to target Soleimani in Iraq, where he was visiting when he was killed. (The administration in any case contends that the strike was justified on the grounds of self-defense since the Pentagon said Soleimani coordinated strikes that killed an American contractor in Iraq on Dec. 27, approved a siege on the U.S. Embassy there and came to the country to plot more American deaths.)
Indeed, the 2002 AUMF directed the president to “defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq.” One can argue about the legitimacy of extending that permission to targeting Soleimani, as he was Iranian. But the Pentagon has noted that he’s responsible for the deaths of more than 600 American troops in Iraq from 2003 to 2011, not including those killed since then by the Iraqi proxies he controls. And he was assessed to be about to engage in further attacks against U.S service members there.
What is less arguable, however, is that Obama’s repeated invocation of Congress’ 2001 AUMF launching the “war on terror” was more of a stretch for his less-focused undertakings throughout the region. That war powers resolution authorized the president to use force only against “those nations, organizations or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
Its language seems clear, doesn’t it? It’s easy to see how this allowed President George W. Bush to attack the Taliban in Afghanistan, who had sheltered and aided Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks. And it’s easy to see why it passed both chambers of Congress with only a single vote against it.
A dozen years later, in 2013, Obama declared that the war in Afghanistan and against al Qaeda was coming to a close, and he promised “to refine, and ultimately repeal, the AUMF’s mandate.” But that never happened. Instead, he used it to justify military action against various other terrorist organizations in countries as far afield as Libya, Yemen and Syria.
In Libya, he actually at first tried to claim that he didn’t need any authorization at all. In 2011, when he launched the attack that would eventually unseat Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the White House argued it didn’t require congressional approval to enforce a cease-fire in the Libyan civil war because “U.S. operations do not involve sustained fighting or active exchanges of fire with hostile forces, nor do they involve U.S. ground troops.”
Perhaps his administration came to realize how weak this argument looked after those operations led to Libya’s violent change of government. Because when Obama’s Pentagon announced in 2016 that it had launched a new attack on Libya, this time against the Islamic State militant group, and a reporter asked what gave it the legal authority to do so, a press secretary replied, “Under the 2001 authorization for the military force,” and added, “Similar to our previous airstrikes in Libya.”
ISIS didn’t even exist when the 2001 and 2002 AUMFs were written. But Obama used the resolutions to justify hitting the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, as well as Libya. At least the Trump administration can point to the Taliban — which was certainly in the minds of members of Congress when they approved the 2001 authorization — as connected to the Soleimani action. Iran gives the terrorist group shelter as well as direct aid in the form of money, fuel and weapons, with the Quds Force commander a lynchpin in that operation.
It’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted.
Furthermore, Democrats this week have been particularly angry that Trump “assassinated” someone — terrorist mastermind Soleimani — without congressional approval. But the use of targeted killings steadily increased during the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership didn’t make a move to stop them. In eight years, Obama ordered more than 500 drone strikesthat killed thousands of people, including a few hundred civilians. One of them — another terrorist mastermind, Anwar al-Awlaki, killed in Yemen in 2011 — was an American citizen.
These examples of military action with little, if any, connection to the resolutions used to justify them show it’s been time for Congress to debate the president’s war powers and what use of military force is allowed since the last administration. But that’s not the debate the Democrats have wanted to have — making it clear that their current gambit is merely to punish Trump. Like the Republicans, they make constitutional arguments when they’re not in power and sidestep the Constitution when they’re in power.
The founders understood that power corrupts, which is why they made sure not to invest it in a single person or body. Congress usually only remembers — and tries to restore — its power when the executive branch is held by the opposite party. But principles should come over party, and never more so than when the stakes are as high as war.
Under Trump, we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it really is.
The false analogy fallacy occurs when superficial similarities between events being compared are outnumbered by fundamental differences. This cognitive bad habit has always existed, but has become more prevalent since Vietnam and the increasing politicization of mass news on network and cable television, social media, and especially the internet. The specious analogy between a recent, short-lived attack on our embassy in Baghdad, and the 2012 Benghazi fiasco during Obama’s watch, is a recent example.
Useful analogies are predicated on the permanence of a flawed human nature driven by greed, power, or irrational hatreds. One of the greatest historians ever, Thucydides, explicitly said he wrote his history of the Peloponnesian War in order to provide “an exact knowledge of the past as an aid to the understanding of the future, which in the course of human things must resemble if it does not reflect it.” That’s why he called his history a “possession for all time.” Similarly the Roman historian Livy, writing at the end of nearly a century of savage civil wars, intended to show “what to imitate,” and to “mark for avoidance what is shameful in the conception and shameful in the result.” Without those aims, history is just antiquarianism or another form of high-brow entertainment.
And politics, which thrives on false analogies. The war in Vietnam left us two malign cultural consequences. The first was the antiwar Democrats and their media subsidiary transformed a military victory into a defeat. This created the Left’s paradigm for every U.S intervention abroad as prima facie a neocolonialist, unjust, racist war against national self-determination in order to profit arms manufacturers, the “merchants of death,” and other capitalist “malefactors of great wealth.” Following this ideological deformation came the “another Vietnam” false analogy, and the “Vietnam syndrome”: fear of casualties, self-doubt about our goodness, and angst over “quagmires” and “escalation.”
Leftist Democrats, opportunistic presidential candidates, and the usual media suspects all exploited the Vietnam false analogy to demonize the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few weeks into the former conflict, New York Times columnist R.W. Apple asked, “Could Afghanistan become another Viet-Nam?” and used the loaded word “quagmire.” The concern over Saddam Hussein’s WMD programs, just one of the many predicates for the Senate’s authorization for the war, was called a lie––“Bush lied, millions died,” the protestors chanted. This claim echoed the alleged false predicates for the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Congressional joint resolution concerning two attacks on U.S. naval vessels by the North Vietnamese. This resolution authorized the president to use “armed force” in the region, and became the imprimatur for subsequent “escalation.”
So too the Patriot Act, which removed the “wall of separation” between domestic and foreign intelligence. That “wall” prevented the FBI from examining the computer of another jihadi training to fly a jet a month before 9/11. Yet despite the dangers of the “wall” made obvious after 9/11, leftist critics like ACLU accused the act of “Put[ting] the [CIA] in the business of spying on Americans,” evoking the Vietnam-era bogey of the CIA trying to subvert the antiwar movement, among other violations. Indeed, the 1975 Church Committee investigation of domestic spying during the Vietnam era led in 1978 to the creation of FISA courts––which we now know have been corrupted into tools for spying on Americans by the FBI and other security agencies.
Likewise the humiliation and “torture” of prisoners in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison in 2002, which included legal enhanced interrogation techniques like loud noise, sleep deprivation, and extreme heat and cold, were transformed into the equivalent of the My Lai massacre in 1968, when between 347 and 504 unarmed civilians were massacred by U.S. troops, an analogy we saw in the Los Angeles Times headline in 2002 that read, “Military Must Squarely Face ‘New My Lai.’” In fact, what happened at Abu Ghraib was light-years from what went on there under Hussein, such as taking a power drill to people’s skulls, let alone a mass slaughter like My Lai.
Then there was the Democrat opposition to the 2007 “surge” strategy for gaining control over sectarian and insurgent violence in Iraq. Senator Barack Obama called the surge a “reckless escalation,” implying a parallel to Vietnam, and introduced legislation calling for the complete withdrawal of all troops by March 2008––an aim he later achieved as president in 2011, creating the vacuum filled by ISIS and Iran, which has turned Iraq into its satrapy and led to the disorder Trump has to deal with.
Why do such false analogies with Vietnam persist? Because they serve the ideological delusions and propaganda of the left. The common interpretation of Vietnam as a “bad war” motivated by racism and power-hunger has been repeated over and over by historians, the media, and popular culture. Reporters at the time, most of whom sat in Saigon and reported hearsay, were lavished with prizes and book contracts, movies like agitprop master Oliver Stone’s Platoon and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now were celebrated, and textbooks from grammar school to university continue to recycle this skewed history. That culture-wide cachet makes Vietnam the go-to analogy for a Left that wants to demonize America and weaken its resolve.
So it’s no surprise that some on the Left would try to turn one of Obama’s and Hillary’s worst foreign policy failures and examples of covering up the truth with lies, into a weapon against Trump, as MSNBC’s Joy Reid and a left-wing veterans group did. But the analogy is so egregiously false that Democrats recognize the obvious difference and have avoided coming anywhere near it. The most important difference is the fact that no Americans died on Trump’s watch, unlike the four Americans who withstood 13 hours of attacks waiting for help that never came. In contrast to Obama doing nothing, Trump immediately sent reinforcements to bolster the scaled-back diplomatic corps, and made it clear that any further violence will be met with immediate retaliation.
Nor was the threat empty. After receiving actionable intelligence of an imminent attack on American personnel in Iraq last week, Trump ordered the killing of Qassim Soleimani, the chief of the Iranian Republican Guard’s Quds force, who had directed for decades Iran’s terrorist attacks abroad. Soleimani had gallons of American blood on his hands, being responsible for 17% of U.S. dead in Iraq from the shaped charges and more deadly mortars he provided the jihadists attacking our forces. Soleimani was the same designated terrorist Obama would not sanction killing, even though he was for two decades the most deadly and skilled enemy of our country. And to further signal his resolve, after Soleimani’s demise the president ordered a strike on the convoy of another Iranian proxy, the Imam Ali Battalion, killing its chief Shebl al-Zaidi, a particularly vicious jihadist.
Another contrast between the response to the Benghazi and Baghdad attacks is the shamelessly politicized and dishonest attempts on the part of Obama officials to spin the organized attack in Benghazi as a spontaneous reaction to an obscure anti-Muslim internet video. The purpose was to protect Obama’s duplicitous campaign narrative that the terrorists had been neutralized. But most despicable was Hillary Clinton’s lying to the faces of the grieving parents of the four dead heroes as they stood near their sons’ coffins. Trump, however, has nothing to hide or spin because he did what a commander-in-chief should do––defend our military and diplomatic personnel, and retaliate for their deaths.
Rather than the “strategic patience,” “leading from behind,” and reticence to punish aggression that were obvious in the Benghazi debacle, Trump has authorized an aggressive offensive against the Iranian thugs and proxies now dominating the Iraqi government and endangering American lives.
Finally, a consequence of the failure to prevent and retaliate for the Benghazi attack was the energizing of jihadist outfits by a victory over the hated infidel, just as the Iranian assault on our embassy in 1979 did. Such victories and killing of Americans–– like the Beirut bombing of our military barracks in 1983, the retreat from Mogadishu in1993, the murder of American military personnel in Riyadh in 1995 and Dharan in 1996, the east African embassy bombings in 1998, and the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000––all have provided morale and prestige to the jihadists and strengthened their resolve.
Such a boon will not follow the recent failed attack on our embassy in Iraq. In fact, after just a few days of protests the militiamen and their supporters, whom the New York Timeseuphemized as “mourners,” had called the whole thing off and gone away, leaving a few militiamen to lob some fireworks and Molotov cocktails that damaged a parked car. A few rockets were also fired, to no effect, in the vicinity of the Green Zone. Perhaps their appetite for a more aggressive assault on Americans was dulled by the 100 Marines and the Apache helicopters Trump sent sent to protect the embassy. And rather than retreat or pull back from Iraq, Trump has ordered even more troops and weapons to Baghdad and the region. This build-up will enhance our ability to handle any attempts to get revenge for Soleimani’s death.
As Trump said, his handling of the Baghdad embassy attack is the “Anti-Benghazi,” which enhanced American prestige, whereas the Obama-Hillary response to the attack in Benghazi diminished it. But the Benghazi analogy will quickly fade away. Not even Democrats are stupid enough to try and weaponize a foreign policy failure like Obama and Clinton’s in Benghazi, and remind people of their two biggest political stars’ worst moments.
But don’t think that the Democrats’ shying away from the Benghazi analogy means that they’re starting to accept reality and think coherently. Their loathing for America is too deeply engrained in their worldview. This is obvious in their eagerness to blame the embassy attack on Trump’s earlier bombing of an Iranian proxy-militia’s military base and other sites, killing 25 jihadists, and their second-guessing of the killing of Soleimani: Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi both used the Vietnam-era cliché “dangerous escalation.” Making the U.S. the global evil genius responsible for all the world’s ills is an old tactic for the Left, one so banal that it’s spawned a cynical truism useful to America’s allies and enemies alike: “When all else fails, blame the Americans.”
The longevity of the “blame America first” trope is explained not just by the Left’s inveterate hatred of the U.S., but by the progressives’ voodoo psychology that turns ruthless, illiberal global despots and murderous gangs into children so traumatized by Uncle Sam’s abuse that they blindly lash out in violent reaction to our alleged oppression. So Leftists and even some Republicans blame jihadist terror on Israel, colonialism, the absence of political freedom, our support for corrupt autocrats, jobless economies, the lack of accessibility to women, and “disrespect” to Islam and Mohammed––anything and everything except the Koran, hadith, sira, and 14 centuries of Islamic doctrine and practice that have consistently commanded the faithful to “fight all men until they say there is no god but Allah,” as Mohammed said. And isn’t it ironic that those who demonize the West as a racist oppressor, and who trumpet their groveling respect for, and tolerance of dark-skinned “others,” in fact patronize them and diminish their humanity by stripping them of their agency, their power to act on their own ideals, beliefs, interests, and goods?
That two-bit psychology is the mother of all false analogies and the fake news they spawn. And the most dangerous. For as Sun Tzu said, “If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Maybe under Trump’s leadership we’re starting to see the jihadist terror for what it is––traditional Islam, rather than a figment of our own therapeutic obsessions and self-loathing political ideologies
Column: And scores a victory against terrorism
The successful operation against Qassem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard, is a stunning blow to international terrorism and a reassertion of American might. It will also test President Trump’s Iran strategy. It is now Trump, not Ayatollah Khamenei, who has ascended a rung on the ladder of escalation by killing the military architect of Iran’s Shiite empire. For years, Iran has set the rules. It was Iran that picked the time and place of confrontation. No more.
Reciprocity has been the key to understanding Donald Trump. Whether you are a media figure or a mullah, a prime minister or a pope, he will be good to you if you are good to him. Say something mean, though, or work against his interests, and he will respond in force. It won’t be pretty. It won’t be polite. There will be fallout. But you may think twice before crossing him again.
That has been the case with Iran. President Trump has conditioned his policies on Iranian behavior. When Iran spread its malign influence, Trump acted to check it. When Iran struck, Trump hit back: never disproportionately, never definitively. He left open the possibility of negotiations. He doesn’t want to have the Greater Middle East—whether Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Yemen, or Afghanistan—dominate his presidency the way it dominated those of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. America no longer needs Middle Eastern oil. Best keep the region on the back burner. Watch it so it doesn’t boil over. Do not overcommit resources to this underdeveloped, war-torn, sectarian land.
The result was reciprocal antagonism. In 2018, Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated by his predecessor. He began jacking up sanctions. The Iranian economy turned to shambles. This “maximum pressure” campaign of economic warfare deprived the Iranian war machine of revenue and drove a wedge between the Iranian public and the Iranian government. Trump offered the opportunity to negotiate a new agreement. Iran refused.
And began to lash out. Last June, Iran’s fingerprints were all over two oil tankers that exploded in the Persian Gulf. Trump tightened the screws. Iran downed a U.S. drone. Trump called off a military strike at the last minute and responded indirectly, with more sanctions, cyber attacks, and additional troop deployments to the region. Last September a drone fleet launched by Iranian proxies in Yemen devastated the Aramco oil facility in Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia. Trump responded as he had to previous incidents: nonviolently.
Iran slowly brought the region to a boil. First it hit boats, then drones, then the key infrastructure of a critical ally. On December 27 it went further. Members of the Kataib Hezbollah militia launched rockets at a U.S. installation near Kirkuk, Iraq. Four U.S. soldiers were wounded. An American contractor was killed.
Destroying physical objects merited economic sanctions and cyber intrusions. Ending lives required a lethal response. It arrived on December 29 when F-15s pounded five Kataib Hezbollah facilities across Iraq and Syria. At least 25 militiamen were killed. Then, when Kataib Hezbollah and other Iran-backed militias organized a mob to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, setting fire to the grounds, America made a show of force and threatened severe reprisals. The angry crowd melted away.
The risk to the U.S. embassy—and the possibility of another Benghazi—must have angered Trump. “The game has changed,” Secretary of Defense Esper said hours before the assassination of Soleimani at Baghdad airport. Indeed, it has. The decades-long gray-zone conflict between Iran and the United States manifested itself in subterfuge, terrorism, technological combat, financial chicanery, and proxy forces. Throughout it all, the two sides confronted each other directly only once: in the second half of Ronald Reagan’s presidency. That is about to change.
Deterrence, says Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute, is credibly holding at risk something your adversary holds dear. If the reports out of Iraq are true, President Trump has put at risk the entirety of the Iranian imperial enterprise even as his maximum pressure campaign strangles the Iranian economy and fosters domestic unrest. That will get the ayatollah’s attention. And now the United States must prepare for his answer.
The bombs over Baghdad? That was Trump calling Khamenei’s bluff. The game has changed. But it isn’t over.