Pro-Palestinian demonstrators rally outside the White House in Washington, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2023.
The Wall Street Journal exclusively and convincingly reported on Sunday that Iran helped plot the ongoing military attack against Israel “over several weeks.” The facts of the Journal’s report utterly undercut Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s assertion over the weekend that there is no direct evidence of Iranian complicity in Hamas’s attack on Israel.
His denial is no longer plausible. It should by now be clear that U.S. foreign policy toward Iran needs a thorough reassessment.
The current policy is based on wishful thinking and false assumptions about Iran’s long-term involvement with Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Iranian-directed attack on Israel is part of a global plan intended to undermine U.S. national security by diminishing our most important ally in the region and sending a chilling message to partners worldwide that America is stumbling in the geopolitical landscape.
Events should induce President Biden, the State Department and all U.S. agencies to abandon the conviction that Iran is reformable. Iran cannot be appeased with monetary gifts, sanctions relief or nuclear concessions. In fact, all of these gestures have been and are counterproductive. In fact, the carrot-and-stick approach used since 2009 has been an all-around failure.
Unbeknownst to most Americans, the Biden administration has chosen only to partially enforce American sanctions against Iran. This has allowed Iran to prosper through oil shipments to China in the naive hope that this will make Iran more willing to pause development of nuclear weapons. You can connect the dots from U.S. sanctions largesse and relief to Iranian monetary support of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah.
Not only must maximum sanctions be enforced, but America and the West need secondary sanctions against nations that circumvent them. Those who say that sanctions don’t work never tell you that we have not fully enforced them. They also make the mistake of using an impatient Western timeline to judge success.
As for U.S. policy concerning the Israeli situation in the south with Hamas, an American-designated terrorist organization, Biden’s initial unconditional rhetorical support must translate to long-term support of a sustained Israeli operation, particularly when the anti-Israel wing in Congress raises its voice to advocate for a ceasefire before Israel can accomplish its goals.
American goals should be aligned with Israel’s regarding Hamas and, more importantly, the Iranian puppet-masters behind it. President Barack Obama tried creating “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, to endear ourselves to the Iranian dictatorship. The results of this experiment should by now be clear enough.
Unfortunately, educating a polarized America about the true nature of Hamas and why there is a war today is incredibly difficult. For example, a New York Times article referred to a “blockaded” Gaza without context, due to its editorial bent. When Israel left 100 percent of Gaza in 2005, the Palestinians could have chosen to become Hong Kong on the Mediterranean, with open borders and relations with Israel. Instead, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas chose terrorism and poverty.
That is why, for reference, the Times chooses not to educate readers with quotes from the Hamas Charter, a blatantly anti-Semitic document calling for the destruction of the Jewish state. From the beginning, The Times conflated Israeli civilian casualties with Palestinian terrorist totals, deliberately obscuring the facts of the conflict.
Can the administration swim against the tide, when the war becomes confusing and parties revert to their echo chambers? The truth is the first casualty of war, and already, parties are taking advantage of the fog of war to advance agendas.
Elliot Abrams’s advice in National Review offers a much better path. “It would be far better to see Republicans and Democrats realize and say the obvious: The world is a very dangerous place, and when our friends and allies are attacked, we will have their backs. That’s the message we want Hamas, Hezbollah, their backers in Iran, and their partners in Russia and China to receive.”
The only question now is whether Biden and Blinken can rise to the challenge, overcome partisan interests and entrenched thinking and reassess the U.S. relationship with Iran in a rational and fact-based manner.
The writer is the director of MEPIN (Middle East Political Information Network) and Mandel Strategies, a consulting firm for business and government officials in the Middle East. He regularly briefs members of Congress and their foreign policy aides. He is the senior security editor for The Jerusalem Report and a regular contributor to The Hill.