OpinionU.S. News

Iran’s attack on Israel was a direct result of American weakness

Obama-Biden foreign policies enabled and are still enabling the Islamic Republic.

Then-President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call from the Oval Office, on June 8, 2009. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza via Wikimedia Commons.
Then-President Barack Obama talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during a phone call from the Oval Office, on June 8, 2009. Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza via Wikimedia Commons.
Gregg Roman (Credit: Middle East Forum)
Gregg Roman
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum. He previously served as an official in the Israeli Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.

Iran’s unprecedented firing of hundreds of drones and missiles at Israel represents a serious change in Iranian policy, which heretofore has been pursued through various regional proxies. It also illustrates the consequences of American weakness.

That weakness has been years in the making.

In 2009, the United States balked at helping the Green Movement, in which millions of Iranians protested the cruel, corrupt Islamist regime. The uprising was ruthlessly crushed.

Similarly, the U.S. refused to involve itself in any serious way in Syria’s civil war, during which Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, with crucial assistance from Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, killed hundreds of thousands of people to maintain power.

In 2012, President Barack Obama drew a “red line”: If Assad used chemical weapons, the U.S. military would act.

Assad proceeded to gas thousands of Syrian civilians to death. The U.S. did not enforce the red line. The Syrian government was decidedly undeterred and it was not the last time they used chemical weapons to murder civilians.

The reason the U.S. was so reluctant to intervene in these instances was obsessive pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran.

The 2015 nuclear deal removed sanctions on Iran while doing nothing to address Iran’s malign activities in the region, support for terrorism or weapons outside the narrow scope of Iran’s nuclear program. Even on the nuclear issue, the deal had a weak inspections regime and was designed to sunset within a matter of years, allowing Iran to keep its nuclear infrastructure in place.

To reach this feckless deal, the U.S. empowered the Iranian regime and weakened the Iranian opposition, ensured the survival of the murderous Assad regime in Damascus and allowed Russia’s reentry into the Middle East.

The Biden administration has also weakened the U.S. position in the Middle East by appeasing Iran. Former President Donald Trump removed the U.S. from the nuclear deal but upon taking office, President Joe Biden tried to reenter it. Just last month, the U.S. extended a sanctions waiver, allowing the Iranian government to access some $10 billion in frozen funds. Such waivers and failure to enforce sanctions effectively funded the creation of the projectiles that were just fired at Israel.

The Obama-Biden policy in Eastern Europe wasn’t any better. In 2014, pro-Russian forces took over the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine. Russia invaded and annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula that same year. In response, the Obama administration refused to provide Ukraine with military aid.

In August 2021, the U.S. withdrew from Afghanistan in a shambolic, embarrassing fashion. It was no coincidence that Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine took place a mere six months later.

After the Oct. 7 pogrom, the Biden administration spoke powerfully and movingly about what had happened. Biden correctly called the atrocities “pure, unadulterated evil” and pledged, “In this moment of heartbreak, the American people stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Israelis.” The U.S. sent carrier groups to the eastern Mediterranean and weapons shipments to Israel.

But it wasn’t long before the U.S. position began to crumble. Left-wing agitators lashed out at Biden, calling him “Genocide Joe.” Human rights groups, the United Nations and others falsely accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. Some Democrats began to clamor for conditioning aid to Israel on upholding human rights with the not-so-subtle implication that Israel was serially violating those human rights.

Biden’s State of the Union address criticized Israel far more harshly than it did Hamas. Senator Chuck Schumer called for new elections in Israel, undermining our ally during an existential war.

Condemnations of the Oct. 7 assault became increasingly perfunctory. The administration began to speak out of both sides of its mouth, pledging to stand by Israel while constantly lecturing Israel and opposing an invasion of Rafah, ensuring Hamas’s survival and a possible Hamas victory. After the accidental killing of World Central Kitchen aid workers, Biden called for an immediate Israeli ceasefire and told Israel that future U.S. support would be dependent on Israeli protection of civilians, even though Israel’s protection of civilians is unprecedented.

This is the context in which Iran launched its all-out barrage on Israel. The Israeli killing of Iranian officials in Damascus may have been the immediate trigger, but years of appeasement, weakness and kicking the can down the road led to this terrible moment.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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