The revelation that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Quds Force had plotted to kill Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States–by blowing him up as he dined at a Washington restaurant–is a stark reminder of the nature of the Tehran regime and its ambitions. But perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the story is that Iran’s thugs are developing a strategic partnership with Mexico’s most violent thugs: Los Zetas may only be the second-largest drug cartel in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s rankings, but they’re probably the most lethal. The gang is said to have formed around a platoon’s worth of deserters from Mexico’s special operations forces, and became the elite troops of another Mexican drug organization, the Gulf Cartel. The leader of that cartel got himself arrested, and the Zetas moved out on their own.
[…]The alliance with the Zetas is only the tip of the Iranian iceberg in Latin America. As Roger Noriega and Jose Cardenas have recently written, “Iran has made the Western Hemisphere a priority….The real game changer has been the alliance developed between Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmedinejad and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez.” In addition to the Quds Force, Iran often operates through Hezbollah, which has established networks in the Lebanese communities that have long-standing enclaves in the trading and port cities of South America. In addition to Chavez, Iran has established closer ties to the Bolivian government of Evo Morales’s and Rafael Correa’s regime in Ecuador.
[…]We underestimate the Quds-Zeta partnership at our peril. The distinction between law enforcement and warfare is increasingly blurred; the Mexican government claims it had a hand in exposing the plot and it was a DEA agent who foiled the attack. While the Obama administration was right to bring charges against the operatives who plotted to kill the Saudi ambassador, this is a response to symptoms, not the disease. The larger problem is the maturing anti-America coalition governments and extremely rich, powerful, and violent groups; thinking of these organizations simply as criminals obscures their political interests–in keeping governments like Mexico’s or Colombia’s weak, in securing sanctuary, in access to the “international commons,” and the like. An appropriate response demands an integrated strategy. The biggest danger is not “militarizing” U.S. policy but in failing to address the fundamental security issues at stake.
The Obama administration’s lack of concern about border security is very disturbing, but they don’t dare to offend their open-borders constituency for a little thing like national security. Even so, the best defense might be a good offense – but is Obama willing to go on the offensive? Not so much. Instead, Obama seems to be resigned to letting Iran have nuclear weapons.
Khamenei probably approved a strike in Washington because he no longer fears American military might. Iran’s advancing nuclear-weapons program has undoubtedly fortified his spine, as American presidents have called it “unacceptable” yet done nothing about it. And neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama retaliated against Iran’s murderous missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
President Obama has clearly shown he wants no part—or any Israeli part—in a preventive military strike against Iran’s nuclear sites. And Mr. Obama has pulled almost all U.S. troops out of Iraq and clearly wants to do the same in Afghanistan. Many Americans may view that as a blessing, but it is also clearly a sign that Washington no longer has the desire to maintain hegemony in the Middle East.
That’s an invitation to someone like Khamenei to push further, to attack both America and Iran’s most detested Middle Eastern rival, the virulently anti-Shiite Saudi Arabia. In the Islamic Republic’s conspiracy-laden world, the Saudis are part of the anti-Iranian American Arab realm, which is currently trying to down Iran’s close ally, Bashar al-Assad’s Syria, and squash the Shiites of Bahrain. Blowing up the Saudi ambassador in Washington would be an appealing counterstroke against the two foreign forces that Khamenei detests most.
The Obama administration will be tempted to respond against Iran with further unilateral and multilateral sanctions. More sanctions aren’t a bad idea—targeted sanctions against the Revolutionary Guards and the sale of gasoline made from Iranian crude can hurt Tehran financially. But they will not scare it. The White House needs to respond militarily to this outrage. If we don’t, we are asking for it.
The longer Obama leaves this, the worse the eventual war in the Middle East is going to be. We should at the very least be pursuing aggressive covert operations against Syrian and Iranian targets. I hope everyone remembers the slap on the wrist that Obama is giving Iran now, so that when we get attacked more and more, with more dangerous weapons, the correct people get the blame.