Iran's Zone of ImpunityBy Ed Lasky
Experts may debate the prospects of how soon Iran will enter the zone of immunity -- when air strikes will be unable to derail the regime's nuclear weapons program. However, what are not debatable are the facts. Iran kills American soldiers, plans murders in our capital, boasts how cleverly its people have fooled international inspectors and played negotiators for fools, launches cyber-attacks against America, and proudly declares its genocidal goal. The response of Barack Obama has been so feckless that Iran no longer even bothers to hide its nefarious, criminal, and warlike behavior. Tehran's contempt for the American president is palpable. The Iranians know they can act with impunity. We have seen this script play out before, and it did not end well.
For years, Iranians have actively aided murderers of American soldiers. This predated 9/11. The terror bombings in Beirut decades ago were committed by Iranian-allied Hezb'allah. The Khobar bombings in Saudi Arabia in 1996 that killed 19 Air Force personnel -- Iran was responsible. The regime stepped up its murder spree in Iraq and Afghanistan, targeting American and allied soldiers. The death toll is in the thousands.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai has admitted to receiving bags of cash from Iran for years -- as have up to 44 members of Afghanistan's parliament.
And the White House response has been to sweep it under a Persian rug.
The regime has worked through proxies, but all lines lead back to Iran and, in particular, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. U.S. administrations from both parties have refused to confront Iran.
Mass murder is a daily occurrence as rebels struggle to oust the hated regime of Bashar Assad -- a key Arab ally of the Iranians who served Iranian interest when he allowed Syria to be used as a jumping-off point for terrorists entering Iraq and killing Americans. Assad's Syria serves as a conduit to ship weapons, aid, and soldiers to the Shiite Hezb'allah terrorists who control much of Lebanon and share the Iranians' genocidal intentions toward Israel. For months Iran has been coy regarding the help it has extended to Assad. Lately, the pretense has fallen. The commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard acknowledged just a few weeks ago that members of the elite Quds force have been training Assad's forces to become a militia modeled on Iran's own Basij force. These "trainees" have already been implicated in some of the worst atrocities so far in Syria -- with more undoubtedly to come.
The Washington Post editorial board has a problem with Iranians helping perpetrate mass murder and with Nobel Peace Prize-winning President Obama's complacency regarding the same. The Iranians can mass-murder away with impunity.
Perhaps if Barack Obama had taken time to negotiate what is called a "Status of Force Agreement" with Iraq before skedaddling out of that nation, America may have retained enough influence to prevent Iran from flying and driving through Iraqi airspace to ship weaponry and killers to Assad.
Lest we forget, the Iranians still have a bounty on the head of Salman Rushdie -- and just a few days ago publicly boosted the "reward" for his murder to 3.3 million dollars.
The regime's escalation does not end with Rushdie.
In the last year, Iran has planned to both murder the Saudi ambassador and attack the Israeli Embassy in Washington, just blocks from the White House. Attorney General Eric Holder declared that the investigation led to Iran being the culprit. The director of National Intelligence subsequently testified that Iranian leaders "are now more willing to conduct an attack in the United States" (italics mine). Yet, just a few months after that attempt on American soil, Barack Obama said he doubts that Iran is attempting to mount attacks in America: "we don't see any evidence that they have those intentions or capabilities now." Either Barack Obama has a serious short-term memory problem or he swept Iranian attacks against America down the memory hole, for to do otherwise would spoil the story he has told regarding his superb foreign policy chops. Worse, from his point of view, it might actually require him to act. As one CIA official opined regarding President Obama and his team, they say things they wished to be true.
Such an abdication of the president's duties just stokes a sense of impunity among the Iranians.
Recently, Iranian handprints have been found behind a series of cyber-attacks against America.
Iranian leaders now so regularly threaten genocide against Israel (a "cancer" that must be removed; a "fake Zionist regime that will disappear from geography"; its existence is an insult; and, just this week, the bald statement that it will be "eliminated") that, as Barack Obama might say, it has become just so much "noise."
Yet, others -- particularly the Israelis, with a searing memory of the Holocaust -- are not so dismissive. The Iranians have also made it clear that America, the Great Satan, is also a target for destruction. Congress has responded by enacting a series of sanctions meant to dissuade Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program.
The last few years, much of the world's focus has been on Iran's nuclear program. Iran has violated numerous obligations as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and a range of agreements with other international actors, stonewalled the International Atomic Energy Agency that is charged with inspecting its nuclear facilities, and (helped by its allies on the Security Council, Russia and China) all but ignored the United Nations.
Sanctions have been passed in Congress over the years (the first set in 1996), the European Union, and, in a milder form, by the U.N.
However, the regime has found ways to circumvent these "roadblocks." Ships are reflagged; barter deals are reached that avoid the use of normal channels of commerce. Then there are smuggling and a "whack-a-mole" strategy that involved creating a stream of new companies when old ones are targeted by sanctions. The list goes on and on. The Iranians and their co-conspirators have been fiendishly clever.
But lately the regime not only has been proudly broadcasting the success it has had in evading these sanctions, but also has pointedly admitted to some of the strategies it has been using to spin much of the world community.
Late last year, the former Iranian nuclear negotiator boasted about Iran's negotiating strategy -- he invited three European foreign ministers to Tehran for "negotiations" so as to make Europe oppose American efforts to submit the issue to the U.N. Security Council. Of course, given the protracted talks -- and more talks -- that have gone on for years, this "bazaar"-like behavior should not come as a surprise. While "diplomats" share tea, centrifuges spin away. But what was surprising was the honesty in the admission: he all but declares European nations as being represented by dupes. Michael Rubin wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed in 2009 outlining the insincerity of the Iranians when they negotiate. Their former chief negotiator publicly confirmed Rubin's argument.
Yet...nothing has changed. Talks are suspended and are renewed; technical issues are raised; talks are ended...and then the cycles continue -- both the nuclear and the negotiating ones. The Iranians routinely announce new breakthroughs in their enrichment capacity and the range of the missiles that can be tipped by a nuclear device -- showing nary a concern for how the rest of the world -- let alone America -- may respond.
They know better by now.
Furthermore, as Joel Sprayregen writes, the current de factor leader of the West's negotiating team, British Baroness Catherine Ashton, is ideal for the Iranians.
Why do the Iranians boast of their methods to fool the world, openly declare intentions to commit genocide, plan attacks in our nation's capital, launch cyber-attacks against America, and no longer deny their role in helping Syria massacre its people?
Why do the Iranians feel so emboldened? Why do they act with such impunity? And what does this portend for the future?
They know the president. They have a measure of the man.
Rewind the tape to 2008, when Barack Obama dismissed Iran as a "tiny country" that "doesn't pose a serious threat." That should have been a tipoff regarding Obama's worldview. He was to be the agent of change -- by virtue of not being George Bush and having Muslim family members and friends, he would open a new chapter on our relations with the Muslim world. Early in his presidency, a letter sent from him to the theocrats in Tehran paid homage to the Islamic Republic of Iran. He cut off federal funding for a Boston-based Iranian human rights group that was recording the torture and deaths of Iranians at the hands of their rulers (before he won the Nobel Peace Prize). The blandishments continued apace: ignoring the pleas of the Green Revolution protesters who also got the measure of the man when they saw hope for change vanish and beseeched him ("Obama, Are You With Us or With Them"). They found their answer.
And still the endlessly open hand, the window for diplomacy that never closes (regardless of the claims over the years by Secretary of State Clinton and Barack Obama that it would not remain open -- but it has for almost four years now). Obama's bluff has been called many times -- despite his warning to Iran not to do so.
Supporters of Barack Obama routinely declare that he signed the toughest Iranian sanctions legislation of any American president. That may be true -- but the work was done in Congress and had to overcome his delaying tactics. Even then he was able to weaken the sanctions. Among the ways he was able to diminish their strength was having his allies in Congress insert "national security waivers" in the legislation that gave him the power to waive sanctions if he alone decided that to do so would be in the national security interests of the United States. These were Obama's Iran Loopholes, and, like most loopholes, they were exploited. The result: all 20 of Iran's major trading partners have sanctions exemptions. Even before he handed out waivers, enforcement of sanctions legislation by the Obama administration had been so lax that huge bipartisan majorities of both houses of Congress have repeatedly signed letters calling on him to actually enforce the sanctions legislation they have passed over the years. As I wrote last year ("Iran Policy: the Problem is Obama"), Obama has not even led from behind regarding Iran. He has been the shirker-in-chief.
Of course, his supporters -- unlike Paul Harvey -- never tell the rest of this story. Just repeat robotically that "President Obama signed the toughest" blah, blah, blah.
America's leadership, at Obama's behest as the commander-in-chief, have all but put the handcuffs on Israel's ability to defend herself from Iran -- telegraphing that an Israeli strike would be a disaster and would not accomplish much at all, and that America would not be "complicit" (so redolent of criminality) in such a strike. His people leak details of the joint Israeli-American effort (initiated during the Bush administration) to disable the Iranian nuclear program by using computer viruses -- rendering that effort less potent.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad feels that the world is moving Iran's way and that, once Obama is re-elected, America will concede to Iranian demands (maybe he received a "flexibility" message, as did Vladimir Putin).
Iran is but a microcosm of Obama's entire approach to foreign policy. He projects a weakness that is provocative to the bad actors on the world stage. Russia is trampling the rights of its citizens and neighboring nations and making threats to America regarding our missile defense system. We have the Middle East aflame and the Muslim Brotherhood marching. China is exerting imperialistic-flavored designs on Asia and squabbling with Japan. North Korea just ignores us; Pakistan harbors bin Laden and still receives munificent levels of American aid. Egypt allows attacks on our Embassy and gets a billion-dollar reprieve from debts owed to America while announcing its intentions to buy German submarines.
The Iranians feel empowered -- they are riding the so-called strong horse and accumulating allies (including Egypt) as America stands down.
We have Iranian theocrats openly broadcasting their intention to commit genocide (paging Samantha Power, the self-described genocide chick -- where are you and your Atrocities Prevention Board?). They are in the zone of impunity, and their comfort there will lead them to take even greater risks -- to be bolder in their actions.
But Obama would rather wage war against fellow Americans (the rich, fat cats, greedy doctors, malevolent health insurers, Republicans) than defend America and its allies overseas. He would rather pressure fellow Americans and stoke divisions here than use American power to resist dictators overseas and stand up for American principles and interest. He is creating a vacuum overseas being filled with people who mean to do harm to America.
Obama is leading in one way: retreat. He is, as Max Boot wrote, "The Retreater in Chief."
And retreat often leads to surrender.
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