Opinion: Trump’s silence over Tehran attacks exposes US policy conundrums

IranThe security map of the Middle East changed within a few hours on Wednesday, when the Islamic State managed to strike Iran for the first time. Six assailants —five men and a woman— stormed the Islamic Consultative Assembly, which serves as the parliament of Iran, and the mausoleum of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini. By the time they killed themselves, or were killed by security forces, the six had murdered 12 people and injured over 60. The Islamic State, which carried out the attack, had warned for several months that it would launch a direct assault at the heart of the world’s largest Shiite state. It tried to do so before, several times, and failed. But Wednesday’s attack was the first time it managed to do so successfully.

It is certainly ironic that Iran, one of the world’s most prolific sponsors of terrorism, boasts of being one of the most terrorism-free countries in the Middle East. Indeed, Wednesday’s bloody strike was the largest terrorist attack in Tehran’s history after the early years of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. It is a remarkable record that many of Iran’s neighbors, such as Iraq or Syria, can only dream of. Moreover, Iran’s claim that its regional rival Saudi Arabia is responsible for Wednesday’s attack is both outlandish and absurd. It is true that militant Wahhabism, Saudi Arabia’s state religion, is at the root of the Islamic State’s doctrine. But the fanatics of the Islamic State direct as much ire against Saudi Arabia as they do against Iran. They accuse the former of being apostates —Muslim traitors who side with infidels— and the latter of being heretics that must be annihilated.

Nevertheless, Wednesday’s attack is indicative of the labyrinthine complexity of politics in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is not a friend of the Islamic State. But it does not want to see Iran, which is one of the Islamic State’s most formidable rivals, dominate Iraq and Syria by occupying the vacuum left by retreating Sunni militants. At the same time, the Saudis —and through them the United States— are supporting Sunni militants in the ongoing Yemeni civil war. These militants are fighting Iranian-supported Shiite rebels in the country, which is why they receive Saudi and American support. Yet among these Saudi- and US-supported militants are groups of fanatics who support the ideology of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. At the same time, even though Washington is a sworn enemy of the Islamic Republic, it relies on Iranian-supplied or –trained troops in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to keep the Islamic State in check.

This is of course not the sole incomprehensible aspect of America’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Another example is US policy toward the Kurds. Washington openly supports secessionist Kurdish groups in Syria and Iraq, and at the same time describes secessionist Kurdish groups in Turkey as terrorist. In another bizarre example, US President Donald Trump recently held hands with King Salman of Saudi Arabia —one of the world’s most blatant violators of human rights— in Riyadh, while announcing his intentions to isolate Iran —arguably the most reliable counterbalancing force against the hordes of the Islamic State. Observers noted Washington’s eerie silence in the hours after Wednesday’s attacks on Tehran, which was followed by an awkwardly short statement condemning the incident. The US president, who typically employs social media to condemn terrorist attacks, said nothing.

Undoubtedly, Washington’s often incoherent diplomatic maneuvers reflect the peculiar political realities in the Middle East. It imperative, however, that terrorism —regardless of its perpetrator or target— is met with unified resolve by all those with an active interest in ensuring stability in the Middle East. Militant non-state actors are very effective in exploiting policy inconsistencies between regional powers in order to survive and flourish. The Islamic State has done so skillfully for too long. President Trump was elected as a game-changer, but he has been far from that when it comes to Sunni militancy in the Middle East and beyond.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 08 June 2017 | Permalink

2 Responses to Opinion: Trump’s silence over Tehran attacks exposes US policy conundrums

  1. Ken North says:

    It is ironically well worth noting that it was Iran’s surrogates, Hezbollah and the “Islamic Jihad Organization” [IJO], that perpetrated the Beirut Embassy bombings and the analogous attacks on the U.S. Marine and French Airborne bases in 1983.

    Then, as now, security in each instance was breathtakingly ineffective. The U.S. Marine base was situated on miserably vulnerable ground, and the gate guards operated under rules of engagement generating empty weapons. [Echo’s of airport security post-9/11.] The lessons of Beirut, Paris, Manchester, London, Baghdad, Kabul, and tellingly, Tehran, as well, are all book-ended by the abysmal failure to embrace time-proven fundamentals.

    The tactics developed by Imad Mughniyeh in the late 1970’s have significantly evolved with the techniques of pulsed kinetic attacks. While they certainly neither developed nor own the methods, ISIL has arguably taken these to an advanced iteration with the deployment of complex attacks incorporating multi-tiered BBIED, up-armored VBIED, and highly skilled light infantry to penetrate hardened targets. Any or all of these techniques could be encountered in the U.S. at any time, foreseeably through skilled penetrations from Central America.

    Clearly, all of these recent incidents reflect an almost laissez- faire sensibility about facility and event protection or those incidents would have been either seriously degraded or constructively displaced.

    Security levels in the U.S. continue to spasmodically range from robust to haphazard, accordingly assuring no shortage of soft targets for extremists of any persuasion. The singularly most critical priority in the United States, with the highest “return on investment”, should be substantially upgraded training for local patrol officers nationwide.

    The top down federal model in use since 9/11 has not even remotely prepared local officers to close and engage with assailants with this level of skill sets, tactical capabilities, attack preparation, and relentless resolve. The patrol officers 6 months out of the academy will be finding their front sights long before local tactical units or federal resources even get the call.

  2. Patrick Hayes says:

    We should give the terrorists what they want and leave their lands. Then they can kill each other to their little Mohammad’s hearts content. Stop all Islamic immigration outside their lands and let them live in their 7th century utopia.

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