Commentary Magazine


Obama and the “Nightmare Scenarios”

With the likelihood of an Israeli strike on Iran, and with Iran threatening to deal the U.S. “a strong blow in the mouth,” what kind of message are Democrats sending Tehran by insisting on quickly withdrawing U.S. troops from the region?

Having stood idly by while Iran progressed through step after step in their near-complete quest to obtain nuclear weapons, we now will be telling the mullahs that we will be splitting town when our ally finally opposes them. In today’s New York Sun, Eli Lake compiles some of the “nightmare scenarios” that may be unleashed in response to an Israeli strike:

• A terrorist attack on the Saudi oil port of Ras Tanura, an export point for oil bound for Asia. Saudi and American officials have in the past disrupted Al Qaeda plots on the facility, such as an attack on the Abqaiq oil processing plant near Dammam, Saudi Arabia, that killed two guards.

• A naval assault on the U.S. 5th Fleet in the Persian Gulf. Iran still has warships equipped with Russian-designed Shkval torpedoes that it could fire at American vessels. Another possible attack would be suicide boat sorties similar to the one that bombed the USS Cole.

• The commencement of a new round in the war between Hezbollah and Israel, with Hezbollah firing its Shihab missiles into Haifa and possibly the northern suburbs of Tel Aviv.

• Hezbollah or Iranian intelligence terrorist operations on soft targets, such as shopping malls and community centers, in third countries and possibly even America.

• A renewed effort to stir an uprising in Iraq through Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army or the special groups controlled by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

With this range of attacks (including one on Iraq) on the table, does Barack Obama really see a strategic benefit in passing up the opportunity to maintain a regional U.S. troop presence? If the answer is “yes,” it merely means he’s a disastrously poor strategic thinker. Since the answer is “no,” it means something much worse.

Instead of being serious about the most important national security issue facing America today, Obama is being political. In a speech before the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations Obama said: “. . . I believe that, having waged a war that has unleashed daily carnage and uncertainty in Iraq, we have to manage our exit in a responsible way.” One can argue against the war, but whatever your complaints, you can’t say it was “waged” in the interest of election-year partisan tribalism. Whereas Obama’s current plan for a “responsible” withdrawal is. This is not getting out more nobly than we got in; it’s letting campaign bluster shape life-and-death policy.

Yesterday, John Bolton claimed that Israel will attack Iran between November and January. In the event of a general election victory for the Democrats, this deposits Barack Obama in the White House at the very moment when any of the above catastrophes could hit. Now that’s a “nightmare scenario.”