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Iran Not Impressed with Biden’s Airstrikes – HotAir

Is anyone impressed with Joe Biden’s attempts to set a deterrent against attacks on American positions in the Middle East? Despite a string of attacks on military installations and Western shipping, the Biden administration acted as though the attack on our base in Jordan that killed three soldiers came as a surprise. It then took several days for Biden to select and order a response, by which time he’d signaled it so clearly that Iran and its proxies had plenty of time to clear out.

But at least it sent a message, right? According to the Wall Street Journal, the answer is maybe … but it’s not the message intended:

A strike near a U.S. base in Syria killed six members of a U.S.-allied militia Monday, the group said, despite the U.S. pounding Iran-allied militia sites with airstrikes over the weekend, underscoring the challenge Washington faces in its goal of keeping the conflict in the Middle East contained.

A U.S. military official confirmed that there were fatalities from an attack on the al-Omar oil field, part of a complex that includes a U.S. base and is jointly controlled with the American military. The official declined to comment further.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia, said six of its fighters had died in a drone strike on al-Omar. The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, an umbrella of Iran-backed armed groups, claimed responsibility for the attack, and the SDF threatened to retaliate.

Iran-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria have carried out more than 165 attacks on American bases with rockets, missiles, drones or mortars in recent months, according to the U.S., seeking to put pressure on Washington over its support for Israel and trying to force the American military to leave.

Give the White House some credit for a far higher level of response after the deaths in Jordan. This time, Biden ordered 85 strikes on seven different targets in Syria and Iraq, either run by the IRGC or its proxies. But even then, the White House had spent days announcing its target selections and modes of attack, allowing the IRGC and its proxies to move personnel and assets out of reach.

And that wasn’t all that Biden was signaling, either. Even as the attacks began to launch, Biden was all but apologizing for them:

The Biden administration has said the attacks, which included strikes by long-range B-1 bombers flown from the U.S., could extend for days and would be coupled with economic sanctions and diplomacy that is aimed at safeguarding American forces—while not pushing the U.S. toward direct confrontation with Iran.

That sounds great — if Iran isn’t seeking a confrontation with the US. Unfortunately, however, we have had 45 years of Iranian low-level war-making against the US, especially through its proxies. Hezbollah conducted terror operations against American nationals in the 1980s, and the provocations intensified after 2003’s re-invasion of Iraq. They clearly want to push Americans out of the region and are betting that Biden doesn’t have the stomach to escalate to an effective level.

The advance warning sapped the deterrent value of these strikes too, Rep. Mike McCaul told Fox News today. It sent a message of weakness in a region where weakness is a fatal look:

Lindsey Graham offered an even more blunt critique of the strategy yesterday on Fox News Sunday. After giving Iran a week’s notice and a proclaimed parameter of punitive actions, the end result is hardly “deterrence.” Trump had a lot more success because he didn’t give Iran the ability to define the battlespace:

During an interview on “Fox News Sunday,” the South Carolina Republican argued that the United States afforded Syria and Iraq “a week’s notice” and said, “This idea of hitting hundreds of targets doesn’t matter.”

“The only Iranian we killed in Syria or Iraq is some dumbass that doesn’t know to get out of the way,” he said. “If the goal is to deter Iran, you’re failing miserably. If the goal is to protect American troops, you’re not achieving your goal.”

Reuters reported that nearly 40 people were killed by the US airstrikes.

Graham, during his interview, also said that Iran was “not afraid of us,” which he said was a contrast to the previous administration.

“They were afraid of [former President Donald] Trump,” he argued.

It’s not the number but the intent. By signalling all week that he didn’t intend to frighten Iran, is it any wonder that they weren’t frightened? 

But the problem goes much further than the past week. Ever since taking office, Biden has signaled to Tehran that he wants to retreat from the Middle East. His bug-out from Afghanistan made that excruciatingly clear, but so too did his efforts to reinstate the nuclear deal that Iran was ignoring anyway, and so did the efforts to cut sanctions and free up tens of billions in frozen assets for the mullahs. Biden insisted that engagement would bring more peace to the region, and, well … the results speak for themselves, Jonathan Spyer writes in the Spectator UK today:

Nine years ago, Barack Obama, with his vice president Joe Biden at his side, announced the Iran nuclear deal. Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime would not enrich weapons-grade uranium for fifteen years. The US would lift economic sanctions in return. It was “historic,” said Obama. The Iranians had been close to developing their first nuke: this agreement stopped them. “This deal demonstrates that American diplomacy can bring about real and meaningful change — change that makes our country, and the world, safer and more secure,” added the president from the White House lectern.

If recent months are anything to go by, these diplomatic efforts to fix the Middle East have been a disaster. The region isn’t safer, nor more secure. Obama’s nuclear deal was too narrow. It gave Iran room to develop its proxy military and terror groups across the region. The main dividing line in the Middle East today is whether you’re on Iran’s side or not. …

The killings of the three US servicemen and the Iranian missile attacks on Kurdish northern Iraq and on Pakistan are the actions of a regime that’s out of control, operating far from the norms of the international system. America’s effort to normalize relations with Tehran has been an unmitigated failure. Containment and passive defense haven’t worked either.

It’s an utter disaster, and even more so, it’s an utterly predictable disaster. We had Iran boxed into a corner four years ago, but today they’re setting the terms for the entire region … and Biden seems only interested in taking notes. 

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