Commentary Magazine


Wishful Thinking, Willful Indifference

Stephen Hayes explains that Iran is arming Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, helping to kill Americans just like it did in Iraq. He writes:

The level of Iranian support for the Afghan insurgency does not yet match the crucial support Iran has provided to Shiite militias and Sunni militant groups in Iraq. And the insurgency in Afghanistan would exist with or without Iranian backing. But Iran’s aggressive and deadly activity in Afghanistan is growing, and its support for insurgents in Iraq continues.

Iran is the only nation that is actively supporting the forces fighting against the United States in both places. This war—or proxy war—is not led by rogue elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard or military. It is directed by the Iranian government and approved at the highest levels. It is regime policy.

But Obama remains silent on this, for to do otherwise would complicate his wishful thinking on the mullahs. “Since the first moments of his administration the president has chosen to believe that the Iranian regime might voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons program. To a great extent, his approach depends on maintaining that assumption.” This willful indifference is most likely encouraged by our military, which, as others have remarked, was stubbornly opposed to doing much of anything about Iran’s killing of American troops in Iraq.

But Irans’ arming of insurgents, of course, suggests that Obama is badly misreading the Iranian leaders’ intentions. They are in a war with the U.S., even if we are not at war with them. They have no intention of giving up the weapon that could elevate their standing against the Great Satan. Obama is banking on the mullahs’ shedding their ideological identity and abandoning an obvious means of advancing their hegemonic aims. The evidence all suggests otherwise.

This development should also make plain that there will be no containment once Iran obtains a nuclear weapon. We’re doing a miserable job of containing them now, when the lives of American troops are at stake. What makes anyone — especially Iran — think America will stand up to the regime once it gains a nuclear capability? That would involve threats of force or actual use of force to halt Iranian aggression. Do we imagine the Obama administration will do that?