- The Washington Times - Monday, October 17, 2011

Revelations of Iran’s plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States and commit other attacks on U.S. soil have some talking about a case for war with Iran. America has had plenty of justification for decades.

Relations with Tehran have come a long way since Barack Obama said early in his presidency that our nation was willing to extend the hand of friendship if Iran would unclench its fist. In those heady days, visions of a “grand bargain” with Iran for regional peace danced in the heads and talking points of White House foreign-policy advisers.

Mr. Obama quickly learned it took more than a speech and a smile to change geopolitical reality. The rejection of his friendship overture taught him that bad relations with Iran were not, as he supposed, simply because George W. Bush somehow had angered Tehran. The brutal crackdown on Iranian protesters in the summer of 2009 showed that the Islamic regime was illegitimate. Tehran’s nuclear progress showed that the mullahs refused to buy into Mr. Obama’s proposed “global zero” disarmament goal.

Iran poses a difficult strategic challenge. The country is centrally located in the Middle East and is estimated to have the third-largest petroleum reserves in the world. It is ruled by a revolutionary Islamic authoritarian regime bent on achieving regional dominance and extending its influence globally. Iran is actively seeking nuclear weapons and developing long-range delivery systems that will destabilize the region and send Tehran’s neighbors headlong into a desperate arms race. Iran also is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.

The Islamic republic has been responsible indirectly and directly for more American troop deaths than any country since the end of the Vietnam War. In January 2007, Iran helped plan and execute an attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, Iraq, in which five Americans were killed and three wounded. The attackers, trained by the Qods force, infiltrated the center dressed as American and Iraqi troops. Four of the five Americans killed were dragged from the site in handcuffs and murdered elsewhere in cold blood. Tehran actively supplies arms, training and support for insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of the most deadly “improvised explosive devices,” or IEDs, are precision-made in Iran to be used against coalition forces.

In July, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta denounced Iran’s support for insurgents, saying, “We cannot sit back and simply allow this to continue to happen. This is not something we’re going to walk away from. It’s something we’re going to take on head-on.” Adm. Mike Mullen, then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, “Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shiite groups, which are killing our troops. There is no question they are shipping high-tech weapons in there … that are killing our people. And the forensics prove that.”

It is unfortunate that killing American troops overseas generates less of a response from the Obama administration than a failed plot to kill a Saudi diplomat, but if that’s what it takes to motivate action, so be it.

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