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Middle East

Iran Pays No Price for Bad Behavior

The ayatollahs won’t stop funding terror until someone makes them stop

While the world’s attention is focused on Gaza, Hezbollah is firing antitank missiles and rockets into Israel every day. In response, the Israel Defense Forces bomb targets across Lebanon. The risk that this could explode into a regional conflict is high.

The U.S. could prevent this from happening without firing a bullet. Presidents often visit deployed troops on Thanksgiving. At the moment, a massive amount of American military firepower is parked in the eastern Mediterranean. An Ohio-class cruise missile submarine is somewhere in Middle Eastern waters.

President Biden should give a holiday speech from the flight deck of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, currently sailing just outside the Persian Gulf, with a sharp and simple message for Iran: Pull Hezbollah away from the Israeli border, stop enriching uranium, order Yemen’s Houthis to give back the cargo ship they seized in the Red Sea this weekend, and tell Hamas to release the nearly 240 hostages it kidnapped from Israel on Oct. 7.

Don’t do these things, Mr. Biden should say, and the consequences will be severe. Of course, he has to mean it.

Iran has learned a dangerous lesson in the past six weeks. It has seen that there is no price to pay for arming its terrorist proxies and encouraging them to attack Israel. Iran’s actions—including attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria by Iranian-backed militias—are met not with reprisals but gifts, like the Biden administration’s decision to issue a sanctions waiver and grant Iran access to $10 billion. This money will be used to fund even more terrorism.

Iran’s leaders see no reason to stop funding Hezbollah, Hamas or the Houthis. No one is threatening to stop the ayatollahs in Tehran or warning them that they will pay a price. What is to keep Iran from creating new terrorist proxies, training them and giving them weapons to attack Israel, the U.S. or Europe?

Most Americans don’t have an appetite for an overseas war. They naturally fear a protracted conflict could disrupt shipping routes and push up gas prices back home. But letting Iran’s bad behavior go unchallenged will ultimately extract a higher price.

An emboldened Iran means emboldened Houthi rebels, Hezbollah guerrillas and Hamas terrorists. A nuclear Iran will attack the U.S. and the West with impunity. It will increase its support of terrorist proxies and will wreak even more havoc and destruction across the globe.

There is reason to believe that a credible military threat would change Iran’s behavior. In 2003 the U.S. amassed military forces in the Persian Gulf ahead of the invasion of Iraq. Fearing it would be next, Tehran halted its nuclear program. The ayatollahs prefer survival over destruction.

Iran won’t stop supporting terrorist groups until it is made to. The ayatollahs are enjoying watching Israel fight the proxies they created. It is time for that to change.

Mr. Katz is a senior fellow at the Jewish People Policy Institute and the author of “Shadow Strike: Inside Israel’s Secret Mission to Eliminate Syrian Nuclear Power” and “Israel vs. Iran: The Shadow War.”

Published on WSJ