- - Monday, January 6, 2020

Fortune has its price. The United States is blessed among the nations, but with prosperity has come responsibility, and the Middle East has a way of exacting that obligation. Until such time that the world no longer needs the region’s oil riches as the lifeblood of progress, the red, white and blue must remain visible from every angle. Always-angry Iran may gnash its teeth and live-and-let-live Americans may cringe, but there really is no alternative.

An icon of a territory where bullies have long reigned could not have made plainer a principle of power: “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” With these words, Osama bin Laden defined the dynamic that President Trump would like to forswear, but cannot — yet.

To abandon the region would require turning one’s back not only on the suffering and oppressed still languishing in the cradle of civilization, but also the billions of others who are held hostage to energy needs that are met by the black gold beneath its shifting sands.

That’s why Mr. Trump was compelled to ring Iran’s bell with the sudden impact of drone-fired missiles upon Iran’s top terror boss in Iraq and seven others on Friday. The action, he said, was not meant to start a war but forestall an imminent attack on Americans. Though a frequent critic of the seemingly endless cycle of tit-for-tat bloodshed, the president understands that where might makes right, the weak horse is ridden to ground.

The killing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ top commander, Qassem Suleimani, has set aflame the mullah-led regime’s ire once again. While thousands of outraged mourners paraded the chief butcher’s coffin through the streets of the southwestern Iranian city of Ahvaz over the weekend, Iranian-backed proxy forces rocketed Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses Iraq’s government buildings and the U.S Embassy.



Iran has vowed to attack American targets throughout the region, prompting Mr. Trump to warn of strikes against 52 Iranian sites — one for each of the 52 Americans taken hostage by Iran in 1979 — if Tehran dares. The U.S. response “WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD,” the president tweeted on Saturday. “The USA wants no more threats!”

For 40 years, Iran has made it a religious imperative to drive the United States from the Middle East. That goal appeared within reach with President Obama’s jaw-dropping Iran Nuclear Deal, which postponed the regime’s nuclear ambitions temporarily in return for the freedom to acquire the deadly weaponry later.

Mr. Trump dashed that dream when he withdrew the United States from the pact in 2018, recognizing that appeasement of relentless aggressors only renders them more dangerous over time. Subsequent economic sanctions meant to bring Iran to the negotiating table has caused the nation’s gross domestic product, which grew 12.3 percent in 2016, to shrink by an estimated 9.5 percent in 2019, according to the International Monetary Fund. Zero growth is forecast for 2020.

Critics of the president’s singular drone strike showed little concern when Mr. Obama ordered more than 2,800 attacks on targets in Iraq and Syria during the battle against the Islamic State four years ago. Europeans are frustrated in the loss of business opportunities with the nation of more than 82 million, and Democrats are embarrassed by the failure of the Obama conciliation strategy to yield improvement in Iran’s behavior.

Oil makes the world go around. The revolution in fracking technology has rendered the United States less dependent upon foreign oil, but it still imported 16 percent of its oil from Persian Gulf countries as recently as 2018, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. And 40 percent of crude oil used to power the global economy is exported from the Middle East. If the region goes up in smoke, prosperity in the United States and across the world goes with it. Fortress America is not an option.

Fortunately, stability assisted by U.S. engagement is contributing toward a rapid surge in global living standards. The rate of extreme poverty, defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, has been cut in half in just the past decade, from 15.7 percent to 7.7 percent, according to the World Bank.

Corralling Iran is essential for global progress. Americans must maintain the brawny backbone of the Middle East’s strong horse while anticipating the opportunity, someday, to ride off into the sunset.

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