Why John Bolton Is Right to Threaten Military Action against Iran

Earlier this week, reports circulated that National Security Adviser John Bolton had asked to see the Pentagon’s plans for striking the Islamic Republic after one of its Iraqi proxy forces fired mortars in the direction of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Ray Takeyh argues that, contrary to the horrified response of the media, force—and even the credible threat of force—has a track record of success in dealings with the ayatollahs, unlike the approach taken by some American presidents:

No president was more concerned with the Islamic revolutionaries’ sensibilities than Jimmy Carter. Even after Iranian militants stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took American diplomats hostage, Carter hoped to resolve the crisis in a manner that did not jeopardize the possibility of resuming ties with the theocracy. Such deference helped prolong the crisis for 444 days and essentially doomed Carter’s presidency. . . .

[By contrast, in] the summer of 1988, there was an ongoing conflict between American naval ships and Iranian speedboats laying down mines in the Gulf waters. As the confrontation on the high seas was taking place, an Iranian passenger plane was making its way to Dubai. As the aircraft approached, the USS Vincennes mistook it for a hostile vessel and shot it down, killing 290 passengers.

Despite days of mourning and incendiary speeches, Iran’s reaction was basically subdued, as Tehran appreciated that the asymmetry of power militated against escalation of the conflict. The one dramatic consequence of the downing of the passenger plane was that it finally convinced the clerical elite that it was time to abandon the war with Iraq, [which had been going on for eight years, since] they mistakenly believed [it] was a prelude to America’s entering the war on Saddam Hussein’s behalf with the purpose of overthrowing the Islamic Republic. Even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who was indifferent to loss of human life, proved too respectful of American power to persist with a war that he felt might now include the United States. . . .

Donald Trump and Bolton are the latest American policymakers to unsettle the Islamic Republic. The signs coming out of the White House may at times be ambiguous, but the tough talk and the tough actions have had an impact in Tehran. The U.S. has withdrawn from the flawed Iran nuclear deal and re-imposed sanctions on Iran that have knocked off nearly a million barrels from its oil exports and crippled its economy. And yet the U.S. has faced no retaliatory Iranian response. . . . Why? Because it respects and fears the power of the United States when wielded appropriately.

Read more at Politico

More about: Iran, Iran-Iraq war, Jimmy Carter, John Bolton, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Israel Just Sent Iran a Clear Message

Early Friday morning, Israel attacked military installations near the Iranian cities of Isfahan and nearby Natanz, the latter being one of the hubs of the country’s nuclear program. Jerusalem is not taking credit for the attack, and none of the details are too certain, but it seems that the attack involved multiple drones, likely launched from within Iran, as well as one or more missiles fired from Syrian or Iraqi airspace. Strikes on Syrian radar systems shortly beforehand probably helped make the attack possible, and there were reportedly strikes on Iraq as well.

Iran itself is downplaying the attack, but the S-300 air-defense batteries in Isfahan appear to have been destroyed or damaged. This is a sophisticated Russian-made system positioned to protect the Natanz nuclear installation. In other words, Israel has demonstrated that Iran’s best technology can’t protect the country’s skies from the IDF. As Yossi Kuperwasser puts it, the attack, combined with the response to the assault on April 13,

clarified to the Iranians that whereas we [Israelis] are not as vulnerable as they thought, they are more vulnerable than they thought. They have difficulty hitting us, but we have no difficulty hitting them.

Nobody knows exactly how the operation was carried out. . . . It is good that a question mark hovers over . . . what exactly Israel did. Let’s keep them wondering. It is good for deniability and good for keeping the enemy uncertain.

The fact that we chose targets that were in the vicinity of a major nuclear facility but were linked to the Iranian missile and air forces was a good message. It communicated that we can reach other targets as well but, as we don’t want escalation, we chose targets nearby that were involved in the attack against Israel. I think it sends the message that if we want to, we can send a stronger message. Israel is not seeking escalation at the moment.

Read more at Jewish Chronicle

More about: Iran, Israeli Security