When an Iran-backed militia fired rockets at an American base in northern Iraq, wounding an American soldier, the White House responded with a timid statement that declined to name the perpetrators. Unsurprisingly, two more attacks have followed in the week since. Mark Dubowitz and Behnam Ben Taleblu write:
Since May 2019, Iran-backed militias have been behind at least 83 such strikes on U.S. positions, a damning pattern consistent with almost two decades of Iran-linked attacks against the U.S. in Iraq. The administration’s refusal to call out this time-tested method of Iranian escalation directly also follows its public unwillingness to blame Hizballah—Iran’s most deadly proxy group—when condemning the assassination of Lokman Slim, a prominent anti-Hizballah activist, in Lebanon this month.
President Biden’s approach draws directly from Barack Obama’s playbook: turning a blind eye to regional aggression and offering economic relief to signal support for engagement to get back to the negotiating table. And it’s unfortunate, because the result is sure to be the same as before: an overly deferential and defective deal that offers Iran patient pathways to nuclear weapons because its restrictions eventually sunset, while preventing Washington from using its most powerful economic punishments and doing nothing to stop the improvement of the clerical regime’s warfighting abilities or those of its proxies.
It’s not just the willingness to overlook Iran’s role in recent attacks in the region that makes this clear. It’s that the Biden administration has done this while going out of its way to tempt Tehran to talk through a policy of unilateral concessions while continuing to declare American interest in renewed nuclear negotiations. The Biden administration’s eagerness for diplomacy will likely be read by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as a vulnerability to exploit.