Middle East

Iran is no mere adversary, it is America’s mortal enemy

Todays democratic softness toward Iran began in 2007, when Barack Obama claimed his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was imprisoned by “Washington Groupthink.”

President Joe Biden has been speaking passionately, empathetically, about Israel, spearheading Western resistance to the barbaric Hamas threat. He articulated a central mission for his administration, America, and the civilized world: saving Israel, and crushing Hamas. Yet Biden’s passion ebbs when facing an enemy behind at least 24 recent drone strikes against American troops, wounding 24 soldiers. Biden must start uttering that four-letter word – Iran, recognizing this deadly adversary – and America’s mortal enemy.

Biden keeps claiming there’s no clear proof that Iran was behind October 7. Yet Iran armed, trained, and funded Hamas. It sounds like America’s spies aren’t providing proof of Iranian support to avoid responsibility for missing the signs of an impending attack.

Hamas’s October 7 massacre should teach Americans not to underestimate their enemies – if they call for your destruction, they’re calling for your destruction. With Iranian-backed forces in Iraq and Syria attacking, Biden should lash back, reinstating a missile embargo, and imposing crushing economic sanctions.

Americans’ circumspection regarding Iran is mysterious. True, every American leader has criticized Iranian offenses. Nevertheless, too many Democrats hesitate, engage, and cajole the mullahs, rather than shunning, decrying, boycotting, and walloping them. Too many acknowledge Tehran as an adversary – but don’t see the regime as an enemy.

Adversaries are rivals with competing interests, whom you have to confront sometimes; enemies are evil threats who make your blood boil.

Sometimes, politicians have enemies they love to hate. The Russian marauder Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s tyrannical Kim Jong Un, lead most Americans’ most-hated-foreign-leader list.

But, sometimes, politicians are cursed with enemies they wish they could love. For decades, most Republicans didn’t hate Saudi Arabia enough, despite the 1970s oil embargo and the 15 Saudi-born suicide-hijackers on 9/11. Saudi Arabia’s brutal rub-out five years ago of one man, journalist Jamal Khashoggi, ended the establishment’s pro-Saudi love-in. As Saudi Arabia became less medieval, and more pro-Israel, murdering this popular Washington Post columnist blackened Saudi Arabia’s reputation.

Similarly, too many left-wingers, who abhor dictatorship, rationalize Palestinian crimes as justified by Israeli oppression – even when committed against Palestinians.

Still, America’s tiptoeing around Iran is puzzling, especially for Democrats. When Iranians held Americans hostage, they made Jimmy Carter look wimpy, causing Ronald Reagan’s 1980 win. Democrats claim to champion women, gays, religious freedom, and human rights, yet Iran’s theocrats are abusive, sexist, homophobic, and repressive. Democrats are “anti-nuke,” yet the Iranian regime keeps rushing toward nuclear weaponry while scheming against Big Satan – America – not just Little Satan, Israel.

Even now, few Americans can name the 22-year-old whose murder by Tehran’s morality police triggered last year’s grassroots protests throughout Iran – or the Iranian prisoner who won the Nobel Peace Prize just weeks ago (Mahsa Amini and Narges Mohammadi). These courageous women’s names – and other Iranian heroes – should be on every democracy-lover’s lips.

Todays democratic softness toward Iran began in 2007, when Barack Obama claimed his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton was imprisoned by “Washington Groupthink.” Clinton supported the Iraq War, which Obama opposed.Envisioning “a new era of American diplomacy,” Obama insisted “We need a president who is willing to talk to all nations, friend and foe” – especially Iran’s mullahs. Obama mocked Clinton and George W. Bush as addicted to war-war. This reflected Obama’s post-Vietnam rejection of American exceptionalism and his hostility to “American imperialism.”

The CIA coup

As president, addressing Muslims on his 2009 Cairo trip, Obama essentially apologized for America’s “role” in overthrowing “a democratically elected Iranian government.” Some scholars dispute this stick-figure “America bad” twistory.  Iranians elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddeq. But he started consolidating power, dissolving the Majlis, Iran’s parliament.

One American diplomat cabled Washington from Tehran warning that Mosaddeq would establish a “dictatorship.” Moreover, the CIA stirred the Iranian public but didn’t engineer the entire coup. As usual, history is more complex than the propagandists’ spin.

Still, the 1953 CIA coup – 70 years ago – supposedly proves America’s original sin-ism, the progressive critique dismissing America as toxic globally and not a force for good. That misreading shaped Obama’s worldview. It kept him pulling punches with Iran, from failing to champion Iranian dissidents’ Green Revolution in 2009 to producing 2015’s poorly negotiated nuclear agreement.

Exploiting these guilty feelings, the mullahs keep out-foxing America, especially under Democratic administrations. Still, even if President Biden isn’t denouncing Iran directly, the mullahs and Hamas may have overplayed their hand.

October 7 woke up “Sleepy Joe.” He is on fire, speaking with moral authority and renewed energy. He has embraced Israel so tightly – it’s no constricting bear hug – and his political success now depends on Israel’s military success. If Donald Trump can pin the Afghanistan debacle, the Ukrainian stalemate, and a degraded Israel on Biden, the Democrats might as well rename the White House, Trump Tower.

In his recent Oval Office address following his lightning Israel visit, Biden said: “It’s natural to ask: Why does this matter to America? You know, history has taught us that when terrorists don’t pay a price for their terror, when dictators don’t pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos and death and more destruction. They keep going, and the cost and the threats to America and to the world keep rising.”

Biden’s affirmative, eloquent support for Israel suggests he might be finally ready to confront Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran’s theocrats who oppress the Iranian people, wreak havoc in the Middle East, and threaten America too. Let’s hope so, before it’s too late, er – before these evil forces do even greater damage.

Gil Troy, is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute, is an American presidential historian, and, most recently, the editor of the three-volume set – Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings, the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People.