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This week’s leaked reports of White House plans to strike supposed Iranian targets, in response to the killing of three US service members in Jordan, shows just how weak and meagre Biden’s Middle East policy truly is, and how desperate the president is to avoid further reprisals from the mullahs in Tehran.
A clear and objective view of recent events in the Middle East must be placed into the correct context, to better understand just how pitiful this president’s wider foreign policies are.
Since the October 7 attack, Iranian-directed and controlled militias in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, have conducted multiple attacks against US forces in these countries, often at military bases housing British and local forces, in addition to many thousands of American and British contractors.
These attacks are not, as Iran and their regional proxies have declared, a response to Israel’s war against terror group Hamas. Iran cares little for the Palestinian cause; its objective is to use proxies to achieve its strategic goals of eradicating Israel as a state, and forcing the US out of the region.
Time and again, western officials fail to understand this incredibly simple but uncomfortable reality, and that skewers significantly the acceptable western responses to the actions which drive Iran’s policy.
Last weekend one of these attacks resulted in the deaths of three US service members, and wounding dozens more. That is three deaths more than is acceptable. Or at least it should be to any commander-in-chief who stations over 40,000 men and women in uniform in harm’s way, and then does too little to mitigate that harm. While Anthony Blinken’s State Department have been busy dealing with Israel’s just war against Iranian-supported terror group Hamas, the administration has failed to deal with the larger problem: Iran. But now, Biden is being forced off his fence.
Still, however, it looks like appeasement to Ayatollah Khamenei’s despotic regime. US news channel CBS broke reports on Thursday that the White House is approving plans for retaliatory strikes on Iranian targets in Iraq and Syria. To most people, this would seem like a justified response to the killing of US troops. However, leaks and delays surely communicate to Iran that the US is desperate to avoid further confrontation. There is a risk that these “Iranian targets” will now be safely back on Iranian soil, which the US seems unwilling to strike. And any meaningful punitive action may have been reduced to a few Brimstone missiles crashing in the Iraqi and Syrian deserts, therefore minimising further responses from Iran.
Driving this carefully choreographed response is Biden’s growing determination to drive Israel to a peace deal with Hamas, in exchange for both Palestinian statehood being forced upon Israel, whilst hoping for Iran’s approval for the deal. This woeful situation facing Israel is going to significantly harm US prestige in the region, as both allies and adversaries can sense that the current administration has no stomach for securing its national interests.
To achieve actual deterrence, America must be willing to use force, and strike Iranian military targets inside Iran. Strength is the only language Tehran responds to – not weakness and indecision. As China continues to loom in the background watching, patiently, at yet a further disastrous US foreign policy agenda unfold, this is incredibly dangerous signalling to future adversaries who may aspire to sow chaos themselves.
Robert Clark is a Fellow at the Yorktown Institute, Washington DC. Prior to this he served in the British Army