Foreign and Defense Policy, Middle East and North Africa

On Iranian terror, we ain’t seen nothing yet

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Image Credit: Shutterstock

The State Department has released its 2012 Country Report for Terrorism and found that the Islamic Republic of Iran has increased its terror support to levels unseen in two decades. Make no mistake: There’s more to come. A lot more.

The disagreements the Islamic Republic has with the United States aren’t rooted in grievance. It would be comforting to believe otherwise, because that would mean that diplomacy could address the problem. The problems, however, are based in ideology. Written into the foundational documents of the Islamic Republic and its Revolutionary Guards is the precept that the regime’s goal mandates export of revolution. In 2008, the regime concluded — once and for all — that the idea of “export of revolution” was about bombs and bullets, not about soft power. In a Middle East Outlook earlier this year, I explain in detail.

At any rate, why will Iranian terrorism get worse? Three reasons:

First, despite President Obama’s desire to put diplomacy first, the United States has yet to force its allies to accept a common definition of terrorism. Too many allies make excuses for terrorism or write it off as David vs. Goliath resistance. If they can do it, then Iran will as well. What can the US do? Make foreign aid contingent on accept a simple definition would be a good first step.

Second, Iran perceives the United States as weak and its rhetoric as empty. Diplomats may say it never hurts to talk, but that’s nonsense. If an adversary sees diplomacy as a means of conflict resolution, that’s one thing. But, too often, rogues see the American olive branch as a sign of weakness to exploit. That’s why the surge in Iraq was politically short-sighted; why outreach to the Taliban preordained American defeat; and why practically begging Iran to talk has backfired dramatically. When then-Undersecretary of State Bill Burns sat down with his Iranian counterpart in Geneva in July 2008, pundits crowed. But here’s what head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps concluded the same day: “America has no other choice but to leave the Middle East region beaten and humiliated.” And, indeed, that is what President Obama did as far as the regime is concerned. More recently, just see how Supreme Leader Khamenei mocks Obama, here.

Lastly, Iran’s nuclear drive continues. The nightmare scenario if Iran develops a bomb is, of course, that they will use it. The more likely scenario, however, is that the Islamic Republic will feel so secure behind its own nuclear deterrence that it will lash out with terror calculating that no Western country would risk retaliating against a nuclear power.  When Iran has its bomb — and President Obama is doing little to prevent it — expect an exponential increase in terror.

Herein lays the danger: Wars in the Middle East are caused not by oil or, as some scholars claim, water. Fundamentally, wars in the Middle East are caused by overconfidence. Despite the conspiracy theorists who believe that Washington seeks to provoke conflict with Tehran, the real danger is that Iran is becoming so overconfident as America shows its red lines to be ephemeral, that it feels it can use terrorism to pursue its ideological battle absent consequence. Eventually, the Iranian leadership will realize how wrong they are. Let us hope that the US government demonstrates seriousness about Iranian terror before the United States finds itself in a reactive conflict.

2 thoughts on “On Iranian terror, we ain’t seen nothing yet

  1. This sure is a sticky problem.

    Sadly, we’ve already learned that “getting tough on _____” (fill in the blank–Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, whoever’s next, and on and on ad infinitum) doesn’t work either. To believe otherwise is as irrational as believing that if we crack down hard enough on drugs, people will stop using them.

    About the only silver lining I can find in the Iraq war is this: we’ve demonstrated that the government of just about any country on earth serves at the pleasure of the US government/military. We can and will impose “regime change” if the stakes are high enough. No sane human being can argue otherwise. Unfortunately, we can’t always protect ourselves against the occasional act of insanity because the wars have also proven, ironically, that we can’t “force” others to behave themselves.

    So, GregO may have a point… We’ve tried so many strategies with these people, from diplomacy to sanctions to the mightiest punishment our military can deliver, and all have failed to guarantee cooperation. We may now have no other choice but to ignore them until they actually cross the line and commit a significant act.

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