President Joe Biden has shown that he is unable or unwilling to protect and defend our troops in Syria from Iranian attacks. This past week, he again failed to do so.
In the interest of full disclosure, my son—a first lieutenant in the Marines at the time—led a mortar platoon in Syria from 2018-2019. So, this is deeply personal to me.
On March 23, Iran directed one of its terrorist proxies to attack American forces in Hasakah, Syria. The attack was carried out with an Iranian-made drone, killing a U.S. contractor and wounding five U.S. service members, as well as civilians.
These attacks have been ongoing for some time. They are not isolated incidents. Indeed, in an appearance before Congress last Thursday, the commander of U.S. Central Command, Gen. Michael Kurilla, testified that Iran-backed forces have been behind 78 attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria since Jan. 2021. Iran and its terrorist proxies were also directly responsible for one-third of American casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Out of fear of having to do something meaningful if the American people learn of Iran’s aggression, the Biden administration refuses to talk about it. To the extent that the attacks become public, the administration’s response has been nothing more than meaningless platitudes and token military strikes.
Following an Iranian attack against American troops in Syria in Aug. 2022, Col. Joe Buccino of U.S. Central Command stated, “The president is determined to take all necessary measures to defend our people.”
Following an attack in January of this year, Col. Buccino stated, “Attacks of this kind are unacceptable—they place our troops and our partners at risk and jeopardize the fight against ISIS.”
Following the most recent attack, Buccino made another empty statement: “This kind of indiscriminate rocket attack places not only our forces and coalition forces at risk, but also jeopardizes the local civilian population as well as the security and stability of Syria and the entire region. … As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing.”
After each incident, to the extent the United States responded at all, it was through token attacks against Iran’s proxies in Syria. The Iranians are more than happy to see these jihadis become martyrs.
In short, the U.S. has never truly dealt with this threat. That must end.
The Pentagon described America’s most recent military response as “proportionate.” This is just another way of saying that America is weak and lacks the political will to defend itself and its interests.
The White House needs to redefine what it means by a “proportionate” response. At the moment, it means tit for tat. That is a recipe for endless conflict and further loss of American lives. “Proportionate” must be defined as the minimum response necessary to ensure that our adversary never attacks us again.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin stated last week, “No group will strike our troops with impunity.” This appears to be true unless you are Iran.
Instead of responding, the Biden administration has spent its entire term trying to resuscitate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which will give Iran a legal path to a nuclear weapon, a ballistic missile system to deliver it and tens of billions of dollars to build its war machine and fund its terrorist proxies.
Is it any wonder the attacks continue? Unless and until Iran pays a heavy price, more Americans will die.
However, exacting that heavy price is possible. We know where Iran manufactures the drones it uses to attack American troops. Moreover, these are the same drones Russia is buying from Iran to murder Ukrainians.
The U.S. must attack and destroy the factories inside Iran that manufacture these drones. If it does, the attacks on American troops will stop and Russia’s efforts in Ukraine will be hindered.
This will also signal to Israel and our Arab partners that we are a strong and reliable ally and we will not be pushed out of the region. That is an important message to deliver in the wake of China’s recent diplomatic successes in the Middle East.
An attack on Iranian drone factories does not require the deployment of a single American service member. It can be done with cruise missiles or similar weapons launched from the other side of the world.
Iran must then be told that if it retaliates either directly or through its terrorist proxies, our next response will be even more devastating. This is the language they understand.
Biden’s failure to take such action is symptomatic of his fundamental weakness. Our enemies in China, Russia and Iran are exploiting his timidity to their advantage. Currently, our troops are paying the ultimate price. Soon, we all will.
Biden fails to understand that China, Russia and Iran are working in concert. Iran is seeking to push America out of the Middle East. Russia is fighting a war in Ukraine to dominate Europe. China, the senior partner, wants to become the world’s leading economic and military power.
Iran is the weakest of the three and the most vulnerable to attack. Now is the time to strike a blow against the new Axis of Evil. Weakening Iran by definition weakens China and Russia. It also sends them the very important message that America is prepared to defend itself and the American-led world order. It is time to put our enemies back on their heels.
Eric R. Levine is a founding member of the New York City law firm Eiseman, Levine, Lehrhaupt & Kakoyiannis, P.C. He is an essayist, political commentator and fundraiser for Republican candidates with an emphasis on the United States Senate.