In a 60 Minutes interview Oct. 15, President Biden had an admonition for Iran and its proxies: “Don’t… don’t… don’t… don’t.”
Iran has called Biden’s bluff.
Biden’s military show of force in the east Mediterranean Sea, after the Hamas slaughter of over 1,200 innocent Israelis on Oct. 7, has been ignored by Iran.
Hezbollah militants continue to shoot rockets and anti- tank missiles into Israel from Lebanon and the West Bank; Shia militias are attacking U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria; and Houthi rebels are firing missiles and drones at shipping in the Red Sea.
Biden suffers from “escalation paralysis” driven by 2024 political considerations. He fears confronting the sponsor and source of the problem – Iran.
On Feb. 2, the U.S. launched long-delayed airstrikes on seven facilities run by Iran-backed militias in Syria and Iraq.
U.S. officials broadcast for days that strikes would be coming after the Jan. 28 drone attack that killed three Americans at a U.S. base in Jordan.
Biden administration officials telegraphed the strikes would be against the militias – and not Iran. Militia leaders had plenty of time to leave the target areas.
The strikes reportedly hit 75 targets that included command and control centers, and storage facilities for rockets and missiles. But Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard officers had time to flee.
The administration indicated the U.S. strikes could last for days or weeks. Will these actions finally send a message of deterrence to Tehran?
To date, the weak U.S. retaliatory strikes haven’t worked, despite more than 169 enemy attacks on U.S. bases and ships since mid-October.
Biden fears escalation and that’s evident in all of his actions. The attacks on Americans will only stop when the enemy fears escalation more than Biden does.
The real test is whether these strikes will deter Iran. The mullahs in Tehran control these militias, and so far they have paid no price for three dead and 120 wounded American service members.
Meanwhile, Biden faces a full-on shooting war with the Iran-backed proxy Houthi rebels who control a third of Yemen.
The Houthis hatched a plan, backed by Iran, to hijack commercial shipping and shoot at the U.S. Navy. They fire missiles and drones targeting ships transiting the vital straits of the Red Sea. It’s a critical shipping chokepoint.
As the Houthi attacks that began Nov. 19 intensified, these terrorists ignored repeated U.S. warnings of “consequences” if they didn’t stop their piracy. A U.S.-led coalition to protect shipping didn’t dissuade the Houthis, who have launched some 30 attacks in the Red Sea since November.
On Feb. 3, major strikes were conducted on 36 targets in 13 locations in Yemen, including “deeply buried weapons storage facilities, missile and air defense systems and radars.” Notably, no targeting of Iranian assets or military personnel occurred.
At every turn, Biden administration officials stress the U.S. doesn’t want a “prolonged war” with the Houthis.
Biden’s Republican opponents – Donald Trump and Nikki Haley – have been highly critical of Biden’s Middle East weakness.
Trump has offered no specifics other than saying attacks would not have happened if he were in office.
Haley has called for going after launch sites and then “surgically” taking out 1-2 Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps leaders inside or outside Iran. She also proposes imposing more aggressive economic sanctions on Iran.
A new national NBC News Poll (Feb. 4) found Biden’s approval rating declining to the lowest level of his presidency – 37% – with only 34% approving of his handling of foreign policy and 60% disapproving.
Robert Gates, President Obama’s defense secretary, wrote about Biden in his 2021 memoir:
“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and defense issue over the past four decades.”
Beginning with the debacle in Afghanistan, Biden continues to get foreign policy wrong.
E-mail Jim Hartman at firstname.lastname@example.org.