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Iran Sends a Message. Is Obama Listening?

Many in the West interpreted the unrest in the streets of Tehran last week in the wake of the collapse the rial as a sign that the Islamist regime was shaken by the sanctions that have been imposed on its economy. The assumption is that the ayatollahs are chastened by the hardships that their people labor under and that it won’t be too long before they are ready to return to the negotiating table and make the concessions needed to craft a deal that will end the standoff over their drive for nuclear capability. But the Iranians and their terrorist auxiliaries in Lebanon (some of who are currently deployed in Syria defending their ally Bashar Assad) have other ideas about the outcome of this confrontation.

Iran’s leadership cannot be completely sanguine about the willingness of their people to go on putting up with Islamist extremism at home and endless conflict abroad. But they also have no intention of being influenced by domestic public opinion or intimidated by Western leaders who are still foolish enough to believe that diplomacy can solve the problem. To the contrary, they believe that it is Israel and the West that can be intimidated and it is in that context that we should interpret the puzzling appearance of the Hezbollah drone aircraft that was shot down over the Negev desert this weekend. Instead of the Iranians receiving the memo the West wants them to read about the futility of further resistance to demands to end the enrichment of uranium that will make a nuclear bomb possible, they have just sent their own message. The drone is more than an indication that Iran will seek to retaliate against any strike on their nuclear facilities with one on Israel. It’s also a sign that the terrorists in Lebanon can strike anywhere in Europe as well as the Middle East. Rather than this drone being a reason for Israel and the West to stand down from a policy of pressing Iran to give up their nuclear dream, it is a warning that ought to reinforce the imperative need to stop them.

As Haaretz reports, the drone is not the first Hezbollah attempt to penetrate Israeli airspace in this manner. Nor is it the only provocation they have delivered in recent months:

Israel .. believes Hezbollah, with Iranian backing, is behind a string of attempted attacks on Israeli diplomatic targets in India, Thailand and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, plus a deadly bombing earlier this year that killed five Israeli tourists in a Bulgarian resort. Last week, Israel announced the arrest of an Arab citizen it accused of spying for Hezbollah, the latest in a string of such cases.

Many speculated that the aircraft was trying to gather intelligence on Israel’s secretive nuclear reactor in the southern desert town of Dimona.

Iran’s terrorist network is part of the regime’s security blanket which it thinks guarantees that it can never be forced to do give up its nuclear dream. Far from being on their last legs or being weakened, Tehran thinks it can intimidate the Europeans and Americans into thinking the attempt to muscle them on the nuclear question is hopeless. They long ago concluded that President Obama doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to them and think all they need to do to win is to hold on while sending messages about their willingness to start a fire no one in the West is interested in putting out.

Instead of seeing Hezbollah’s drone as an indication of the folly of threatening the use of force, this should be a warning of the necessity of setting red lines that will make it clear that diplomacy will go out the window unless they stop enriching uranium. Without them, Tehran will continue to believe they need not fear American resolve on the issue and that they can, in turn, act with impunity. If President Obama is serious about his promise to stop the Iranians he will understand that a passive reaction to this provocation will produce the opposite of what he wants: an emboldened Iranian government that will see no point in bowing to the West on the nuclear issue.