FPI Bulletin: More Diplomacy is Not an Adequate Response to Iran's Assassination Plot

October 17, 2011

Last week, the Obama administration publicly revealed that senior Iranian officials had plotted to kill on the Saudi Ambassador to the United States on U.S. soil. With Iran continuing to pursue and develop nuclear weapons capability, this alleged plot represents a brazen escalation of Iran’s antagonism against the United States and Saudi Arabia. President Obama should respond directly and forcefully to Iran’s provocation. We believe that the following op-ed articles from FPI Executive Director Jamie Fly and FPI Director William Kristol could prove helpful to policymakers in formulating a response.

Iran is Dangerous and Diplomacy has Failed – FPI Executive Director Jamie Fly – National Review Online’s blog, The Corner – October 14, 2011
Decisive action on the world stage has not been the Obama administration’s strong suit. Even when President Obama has pursued the correct policies — such as his eventual backing of the revolutionaries of the Arab Spring and his initial approach to Iraq and Afghanistan — he arrived at them only after much agonizing and often unnecessary caution.
So it was easy to predict the Obama administration’s response to the outrageous plot by the Iranian Qods force to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a Washington, D.C., restaurant: express indignation and threaten unspecified diplomatic action and international isolation.
But in this case, that standard response is going to put Americans at risk.
A rogue state sponsor of terror and a nuclear-weapons aspirant was caught plotting an attack that would almost certainly have killed Americans on U.S. soil. Iran has been killing Americans for decades. American lives have been lost at the hands of the Iranian-backed terrorist groups Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan have been blown up by devastating Iranian-supplied explosive devices and gunned down by Iraqi Shiite snipers trained and equipped by Iranian government forces. Thirteen Americans were killed in the month of July alone by Iranian-backed Shiite militias, attacks that were publicly denounced by senior American officials but received no overt U.S. military response against the facilitators inside Iran. The same can be said of the U.S. response to Iran’s continued provocative actions as it progresses toward a nuclear weapons capability.
Since President Obama took office, Iran has steadily crossed redline after redline in its nuclear weapons program. This has been met with a mix of silence or public bluster about additional sanctions. Remember the “crippling sanctions” promised by Secretary Clinton in April 2009? Now Iran possesses a stockpile of several weapons’ worth of enriched uranium, has a formerly secret centrifuge enrichment facility coming online, is making significant strides in its ballistic missile program, and is reportedly conducting ongoing weaponization work.  These developments have all been met with nothing more than a series of relatively toothless U.N. Security Council resolutions and some stern lectures from American and European diplomats.
As developments this week make abundantly clear, our disgraceful attempts to “engage” the despotic regime in Tehran — even as Iranians tried to overthrow their leaders in 2009 and even as Americans were dying in Iraq and Afghanistan at the hands of the Qods force — have failed.
Fortunately, there is a template for action from President Obama’s predecessors in the Oval Office. An appropriate response would be targeted strikes against key regime facilities that support Iran’s illicit activities.
As President Clinton told the American people in June 1993 when he announced cruise missile strikes on Iraq after it was revealed that Iraqi president Saddam Hussein had plotted to assassinate former President George H. W. Bush:
From the first days of our revolution, America’s security has depended on the clarity of this message: Don’t tread on us. A firm and commensurate response was essential to protect our sovereignty; to send a message to those who engage in state-sponsored terrorism; to deter further violence against our people; and to affirm the expectation of civilized behavior among nations.
Or as President Reagan justified his air strikes against the regime of Moammar Qaddafi in April 1986:
We Americans are slow to anger. We always seek peaceful avenues before resorting to the use of force—and we did. We tried quiet diplomacy, public condemnation, economic sanctions, and demonstrations of military force. None succeeded. Despite our repeated warnings, Qadhafi continued his reckless policy of intimidation, his relentless pursuit of terror. He counted on America to be passive. He counted wrong. I warned that there should be no place on Earth where terrorists can rest and train and practice their deadly skills. I meant it. I said that we would act with others, if possible, and alone if necessary to ensure that terrorists have no sanctuary anywhere. Tonight, we have.
Until now, the president has chosen to be the hapless victim of Iran’s machinations. It is time for President Obama to follow in the footsteps of his predecessors and stand up to tyrants who kill Americans and threaten our interests.
It is time to take military action against the Iranian government elements that support terrorism and its nuclear program. More diplomacy is not an adequate response.

Speak Softly… and Fight Back – FPI Director William Kristol – The Weekly Standard – October 15, 2011
The foiled Iranian plot to blow up the Saudi ambassador to the United States has met with a tough U.S. response. Tough talk. And lots of it. If words were dollars, the federal budget deficit would have disappeared, as U.S. officials from President Obama to Vice President Biden to Secretary of State Clinton have been waxing eloquent against assassinating ambassadors, condemning any and all who would order such a thing, insisting there will be repercussions, and promising “accountability.”
There’s been plenty of talk. But of course no action.
This Iranian regime has the blood of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan on its hands. It’s a sponsor and facilitator of terror organizations that have killed innocent Americans, Israelis, Iraqis, Afghans, Argentines, and many others. It’s a brutal dictatorship. And it’s seeking nuclear weapons while denying it’s doing so. It’s long since been time for the United States to speak to this regime in the language it understands—force.
And now we have an engraved invitation to do so. The plot to kill the Saudi ambassador was a lemon. Statesmanship involves turning lemons into lemonade.
So we can stop talking. Instead, we can follow the rat lines in Iraq and Afghanistan back to their sources, and destroy them. We can strike at the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and weaken them. And we can hit the regime’s nuclear weapons program, and set it back. Lest the administration hesitate to act out of fear of lack of support at home, Congress should consider authorizing the use of force against Iranian entities that facilitate attacks on our troops, against IRGC and other regime elements that sponsor terror, and against the regime’s nuclear weapons program.
The next speech we need to hear from the Obama administration should announce that, after 30 years, we have gone on the offensive against this murderous regime. And the speech after that can celebrate the fall of the regime, and offer American help to the democrats building a free and peaceful Iran.

Suggested Reading

  • The One-Way War – Lee Smith – The Weekly Standard – October 15, 2011
  • Iran's Act of War – Reuel Marc Gerecht – Wall Street Journal (subscription required) – October 13, 2011
  • When Tehran Attacks – Emanuele Ottolenghi – Wall Street Journal Europe – October 13, 2011

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