An article in Al Arabiya last week dropped a small bombshell. It reported that Hassan Fariuzabadi, military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, boasted to the semiofficial Fars news agency that his country had “sent, in the past years, military advisers to the Gaza strip and trained the ‘Palestinian forces’” there. The fact that Al Arabiya is owned by Saudi Arabia, Iran’s archrival, suggests that the report should be taken with a grain of salt. But there’s no doubt that Iran has been and remains active in the region by opposing, thwarting and threatening American interests and allies. That it could send advisers or cash to Hamas or one of its more radical competitors is certainly plausible.
Iran was also implicated in a missile attack last week on U.S. ships in the Red Sea. U.S. Central Command leader Army Gen. Joseph Votel said, “Iran is playing a role in some of this” after the ships were apparently targeted from rebel Houthi-controlled territory in Yemen. Iran has largely supported the Houthis, who are fighting to oust Yemen’s Western-backed government. Others, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), believe that the missiles were provided by Iran. In retaliation, U.S. missiles destroyed three radar sites in territory controlled by the Houthis.
Iran is already deeply involved in the conflicts in Syria, where the Assad regime is increasingly dependent on Iran’s military and financial support, and in Iraq. In Lebanon, it backs the Hezbollah militia that is pointing what Israel says is 120,000 missiles at the Jewish state. Iran has been implicated in the unsolved 1984 bombing at the AMIA Jewish Center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people and injured hundreds. Iran has also ruled out negotiations with the United States on any issue beyond last year’s nuclear deal. But if Iran is responsible for firing on U.S. ships, it raises the question of what the U.S. response will be.
A year and a half ago we accepted the Obama administration’s argument that a nuclear-armed Iran was inherently more dangerous than one made $150 billion richer in exchange for forswearing nuclear weapons. But is the White House ready to live up to its part of the implied bargain? Or, is President Obama more concerned about the possible implications of action on what appears to be his increasing focus on his legacy?
Secretary of State John Kerry has made clear commitments that the United States would work to counter Iranian attempts to destabilize the region, endanger Israel and achieve Middle East hegemony. We believed him. Isn’t it time to live up to those promises for serious action and consequences?