America, Pay No Price
January 7, 2016
If you’re going to engage in a foreign policy capitulation,
might as well do it when everyone is getting tanked and otherwise occupied. Say,
around New Year’s Eve.
Here’s the story. In October, Iran test-fires a
nuclear-capable ballistic missile in brazen violation of a Security
Council resolution explicitly prohibiting such launches. President
Obama does nothing. One month later, Iran
does it again. The administration makes a few gestures at the U.N. Then
nothing. Then finally, on Dec. 30, the White House announces a few
They are weak, aimed mostly at individuals and designed
essentially for show. Amazingly, even that proves too much. By 10 p.m. that
administration caves. The White House sends out an email saying that
sanctions are off — and the Iranian president orders
the military to expedite the missile program.
Is there any red line left? First, the Syrian
chemical weapons. Then the administration insistence that there would be no
nuclear deal unless Iran accounted for its past nuclear activities. (It
didn’t.) And unless Iran permitted inspection of its Parchin
nuclear testing facility. (It was allowed self-inspection and declared
itself clean.) And now, illegal ballistic missiles.
The premise of the nuclear deal was that it would constrain
Iranian actions. It’s had precisely the opposite effect. It has deterred us
from offering even the mildest pushback to any Iranian violations lest Iran walk
away and leave Obama legacy-less.
weeks ago, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards conducted live-fire exercises near
the Strait of Hormuz. It gave nearby U.S. vessels exactly 23 seconds of
warning. One rocket was launched 1,500 yards from the USS Harry S. Truman.
Obama’s response? None.
The Gulf Arabs — rich, weak and, since FDR, dependent on
America for security — are bewildered. They’re still reeling from the
nuclear deal, which Obama declared would be unaffected by Iranian misbehavior
elsewhere. The result was to assure Tehran that it would pay no price for its
aggression in Syria and Yemen, subversion in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, and
support for terrorism.
Obama seems not to understand that disconnecting the nuclear
issue gave the mullahs license to hunt in the region. For the Saudis, however,
it’s not just blundering but betrayal. From the very beginning, they’ve seen
toward Tehran as he fancies himself Nixon in China, turning Iran into a
strategic partner in managing the Middle East.
This is even scarier because it is delusional. If anything,
Obama’s openhanded appeasement has encouraged Iran’s regional adventurism
and intense anti-Americanism.
The Saudis, sensing abandonment, are near panic. Hence the
reckless execution of the firebrand Shiite insurrectionist, Sheik Nimr
Baqr al-Nimr, that has brought the region to a boil. Iranians torched the Saudi
Embassy. The Saudis led other Sunni states in breaking
relations with Tehran.
The Saudis feel surrounded, and it’s not paranoia. To their
north, Iran dominates a Shiite crescent stretching from Iraq, Syria and Lebanon
to the Mediterranean. To the Saudi south, Iran has been arming Yemen’s Houthi
at least 2009. The fighting has spilled over the border into Saudi Arabia.
The danger is rising. For years, Iran has been supporting
anti-regime agitation among Saudi Arabia’s minority Shiites. The Persian Gulf
is Iran’s ultimate prize. The fall of the House of Saud would make Iran the
undisputed regional hegemon and an emerging global power.
For the United States, that would be the greatest geopolitical
setback since China fell to communism in 1949. Yet Obama seems oblivious. Worse,
he appears inert in the face of the three great challenges to the post-Cold War
American order. Iran is only the most glaring. China is challenging the status
quo in the South China Sea, just last week landing
its first aircraft on an artificial island hundreds of miles beyond the
Chinese coast. We deny China’s claim and declare these to be international
waters, yet last month we
meekly apologized when a B-52 overflew one of the islands. We said it
The world sees and takes note. As it does our response to the
other great U.S. adversary — Russia. What’s happened to Obama’s vaunted
“isolation” of Russia for its annexation of Crimea and assault on the
post-Cold War European settlement? Gone. Evaporated. John Kerry plays lapdog to
Sergei Lavrov. Obama meets
openly with Vladimir Putin in Turkey, then in Paris. And is now
practically begging him to join our side in Syria.
There is no price for defying Pax Americana — not even
trivial sanctions on Iranian missile-enablers. Our enemies know it. Our allies
see it — and sense they’re on their own, and may not survive.