Trump Is a Danger to U.S. Security

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His isolationist views and erratic thinking and style would post even greater risks in a second term.

When I became President Trump’s national security adviser in 2018, I assumed the gravity of his responsibilities would discipline even him. I was wrong. His erratic approach to governance and his dangerous ideas gravely threaten American security. Republican primary voters should take note.

Mr. Trump’s only consistent focus is on himself. He invariably equated good personal relations with foreign leaders to good relations between countries. Personal relations are important, but the notion that they sway Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping and their ilk is perilously wrong.

Mr. Trump’s most dangerous legacy is the spread of the isolationist virus in the Republican Party. The Democrats long ago adopted an incoherent melding of isolationism with indiscriminate multilateralism. If isolationism becomes the dominant view among Republicans, America is in deep trouble.

The most immediate crisis involves Ukraine. Barack Obama’s limp-wristed response to Moscow’s 2014 aggression contributed substantially to Mr. Putin’s 2022 attack. But Mr. Trump’s conduct was also a factor. He accused Ukraine of colluding with Democrats against him in 2016 and demanded answers. No answers were forthcoming, since none existed. President Biden’s aid to Ukraine has been piecemeal and nonstrategic, but it is almost inevitable that a second-term Trump policy on Ukraine would favor Moscow.

Mr. Trump’s assertions that he was “tougher” on Russia than earlier presidents are inaccurate. His administration imposed major sanctions, but they were urged by advisers and carried out only after he protested vigorously. His assertions that Mr. Putin would never have invaded Ukraine had he been re-elected are wishful thinking. Mr. Putin’s flattery pleases Mr. Trump. When Mr. Putin welcomed Mr. Trump’s talk last year of ending the Ukraine war, Mr. Trump gushed: “I like that he said that. Because that means what I’m saying is right.” Mr. Putin knows his mark and would relish a second Trump term.

An even greater danger is that Mr. Trump will act on his desire to withdraw from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He came precariously close in 2018. The Supreme Court has never ruled authoritatively whether the president can abrogate Senate-ratified treaties, but presidents have regularly done so. Recently enacted legislation to stop Mr. Trump from withdrawing without congressional consent likely wouldn’t survive a court challenge. It could precipitate a constitutional crisis and years of litigation.

Mr. Trump is unlikely to thwart the Beijing-Moscow axis. While he did draw attention to China’s growing threat, his limited conceptual reach led to simple-minded formulas (trade surpluses good, deficits bad). His tough talk allowed others to emphasize greater Chinese misdeeds, including massive theft of Western intellectual property, mercantilist trade policies, manipulation of the World Trade Organization, and “debt diplomacy,” which puts unwary countries in hock to Beijing. These are all real threats, but whether Mr. Trump is capable of countering them is highly doubtful.

Ultimately, Beijing’s obduracy and Mr. Trump’s impulse for personal publicity precluded whatever slim chances existed to eliminate China’s economic abuses. In a second term, Mr. Trump would likely continue seeking “the deal of the century” with China, while his protectionism, in addition to being bad economic policy, would make it harder to stand up to Beijing. The trade fights he picked with Japan, Europe and others impaired our ability to increase pressure against China’s broader transgressions.

The near-term risks of China manufacturing a crisis over Taiwan would rise dramatically. Mr. Xi is watching Ukraine and may be emboldened by Western failure there. A physical invasion is unlikely, but China’s navy could blockade the island and perhaps seize Taiwanese islands near the mainland. The loss of Taiwan’s independence, which would soon follow a U.S. failure to resist Beijing’s blockade, could persuade countries near China to appease Beijing by declaring neutrality.

Taiwan’s fall would encourage Beijing to finalize its asserted annexation of almost all the South China Sea. Littoral states like Vietnam and the Philippines would cease resistance. Commerce with Japan and South Korea, especially of Middle Eastern oil, would be subjected to Chinese control, and Beijing would have nearly unfettered access to the Indian Ocean, endangering India.

And imagine Mr. Trump’s euphoria at resuming contact with North Korea’s Kim Jung Un, about whom he famously boasted that “we fell in love.” Mr. Trump almost gave away the store to Pyongyang, and he could try again. A reckless nuclear deal would alienate Japan and South Korea, extend China’s influence, and strengthen the Beijing-Moscow axis.

Israel’s security might seem an issue on which Mr. Trump’s first-term decisions and rhetoric should comfort even his opponents. But he has harshly criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since the Oct. 7 attacks, and there is no foreign-policy area in which the absence of electoral constraints could liberate Mr. Trump as much as in the Middle East. There is even a danger of a new deal with Tehran. Mr. Trump almost succumbed to French President Emmanuel Macron’s pleading to meet Iran’s foreign minister in August 2019.

Mr. Trump negotiated the catastrophic withdrawal deal with the Taliban, which Mr. Biden further bungled. The overlap between Messrs. Trump’s and Biden’s views on Afghanistan demonstrate the absence of any Trump national-security philosophy. Even in the Western Hemisphere, Mr. Trump didn’t carry through on reversing Obama administration policies on Cuba and Venezuela. His affinity for strongmen may lead to deals with Nicolás Maduro and whatever apparatchik rules in Havana.

Given Mr. Trump’s isolationism and disconnected thinking, there is every reason to doubt his support for the defense buildup we urgently need. He initially believed he could cut defense spending simply because his skills as a negotiator could reduce procurement costs. Even as he increased defense budgets, he showed acute discomfort, largely under the influence of isolationist lawmakers. He once tweeted that his own military budget was “crazy” and that he, Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi should confer to prevent a new arms race. Mr. Trump is no friend of the military. In private, he was confounded that anyone would put himself in danger by joining.

A second Trump term would bring erratic policy and uncertain leadership, which the China-Russia axis would be only too eager to exploit.

This article was first published in The Wall Street Journal on January 31, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

America’s Arms-Control Restraints No Longer Make Sense

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Our enemies are proliferating, so we must adapt

On June 18, 1935, the United Kingdom and Germany entered “a permanent and definite agreement” that limited Germany’s total warship tonnage to 35 percent of the British Commonwealth’s. This was a major concession from Great Britain, since agreements at the Washington (1921–22) and London (1930) naval conferences had already significantly reduced its own fleet. Hitler defined “permanent and definite” to mean lasting less than four years: He abrogated the treaty on April 28, 1939, four convenient months before the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact carved up Poland and started World War II. Arms control at work.

After 1945, America concluded a series of treaties that were, when signed or shortly thereafter, almost uniformly disadvantageous to us. Considerable efforts to eliminate these restraints have been made, but significant risk remains of reverting to the old ways or not extracting ourselves from the remaining harmful treaties. Whoever next wins the presidency should seek the effective end of the usual arms-control theology before the tide turns again.

To have any chance of bolstering U.S. national security, arms control must fit into larger strategic frameworks, which it has not done well in the last century. Even if they made sense in their day, many arms-control treaties have not withstood changing circumstances. Preserving them is even less viable as we enter a new phase of international affairs: the era after the post–Cold War era. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Iran’s ongoing “ring of fire” strategy against Israel, China’s aspirations for regional and then global hegemony, and the Beijing–Moscow axis augur trying times. We need a post–post–Cold War strategy avowedly skeptical of both the theoretical and the operational aspects of the usual approaches to arms control.

Rethinking arms-control doctrine down to its foundations began with Ronald Reagan’s 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative and resumed with George W. Bush. The partisan and philosophical debates they launched have continued ever since, but the next president will confront foreign- and defense-policy decisions that cannot be postponed or ignored. Best to do some advance thinking now.

Bush’s aspirations were more limited than what liberals derided as Reagan’s “Star Wars.” Bush worried about American vulnerability to the prospect of “handfuls, not hundreds,” of ballistic missiles launched against us by rogue states. Providing even limited national missile defense, however, required withdrawing from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, as Bush did in December 2001. Arms control’s high priests and priestesses, and key senators such as Joe Biden and John Kerry, were apoplectic. Missile defense was provocative, they said. Leaving the ABM Treaty meant abandoning “the cornerstone of international strategic stability” (a phrase commonly used by politicians, diplomats, and arms controllers) and upsetting the premise of mutual assured destruction, they said.

But Bush persisted and withdrew. As the saying goes, the dogs barked and the caravan moved on. In 2002, Bush turned to a new kind of strategic-arms agreement with Vladimir Putin, the Treaty of Moscow, which set asymmetric limits on deployed strategic nuclear warheads and was structured in ways very different from earlier or later nuclear-weapons treaties. We abandoned the complex, highly dubious counting and attribution metrics of prior strategic-weapons deals, as well as verification procedures that Russia had perfected means to evade. The Treaty of Moscow was sufficiently reviled by the arms-control theocracy that Barack Obama replaced it in 2010 with the New START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty), reverting to failed earlier approaches, more on which below.

During Bush’s first term, we also blocked efforts in the United Nations at international gun control. We established the G-8 Global Partnership — to increase funding for the destruction of Russia’s “excess” nuclear and chemical weapons and delivery systems — and launched the Proliferation Security Initiative to combat international trafficking in weapons and materials of mass destruction. Neither effort required treaties or international bureaucracies. We unsigned the Rome Statute, the treaty that had created the International Criminal Court, to protect U.S. service members from the threat of criminal action by unaccountable global prosecutors.

Finally, the Bush administration scotched a proposed “verification” protocol to the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) that risked intellectual-property piracy against U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers but did not enhance the verification of breaches. The BWC and the Chemical Weapons Convention express aspirations not to use these weapons of mass destruction, but it is almost impossible to verify compliance with them. Moreover, arms controllers forget that the BWC sprang from Richard Nixon’s unilateral decision to eliminate American biological munitions, which proved that we could abjure undesirable weapons systems on our own.

The Bush administration went a long way toward ending arms control, but the true believers returned to power under Obama. Eager to ditch the heretical Treaty of Moscow, his negotiators produced New START — the lineal descendant of two earlier SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Talks) and three START agreements — which entered into force in February 2011 for ten years, extendable once for five more. The Senate should never have ratified this execrable deal, as I explained in these pages (“A Treaty for Utopia,” May 2010). Nonetheless, with a Democratic majority it did so in a late-2010 lame-duck session, by 71 votes (all 56 Democrats, two independents, and 13 Republicans) to 26. While the vote seems lopsided, there were three nonvoters — retiring anti-treaty Republicans who opposed ratification — and the Senate secured the constitutionally required two-thirds ratification majority by only five votes. Today, given a possible Republican majority ahead and the unlikelihood that so many Republicans would defect again, ratifying a successor treaty is a dubious prospect at best.

The Trump administration resumed untying Gulliver, exiting the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty in 2019. While the INF Treaty may have made sense in the 1980s, by the time of withdrawal only the United States was abiding by its provisions. The likes of China and Iran, not treaty parties, were accumulating substantial numbers of intermediate-range ballistic missiles, and Russia was systematically violating INF Treaty limits. That left America as the only country abiding by the treaty, an obviously self-inflicted handicap that withdrawal corrected. Then, in 2020, the U.S. withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty because Russia had abused its overflight privileges and because our national technical assets made overflight to obtain information obsolete. Russia subsequently withdrew from Open Skies.

But the arms-control theology still has powerful adherents. On January 26, 2021, newly inaugurated Joe Biden sent his first signal of weakness to Putin by unconditionally extending New START for five years without seeking modifications to it. This critical capitulation was utterly unwarranted by New START’s merits or by developments since its ratification. The treaty was fatally defective in that it did not address tactical nuclear weapons, in which Russia had clear superiority. It remains true that no new deal would be sensible for the United States unless it included tactical as well as strategic warheads.

In addition, technological threats that postdate New START (which deals with the Cold War triad of land-based ballistic missiles, submarine-launched ballistic missiles, and heavy bombers) need to be confronted, especially cruise missiles, which can now reach hypersonic speeds.

Most important, China has made substantial progress since 2010 toward becoming a peer nuclear power. Beijing may not yet have the deliverable-weapons capacity of Washington or Moscow, but the trajectory is clear.

A tripolar U.S.–Russian–Chinese nuclear world (no other power has or will have rates of warhead production comparable to China’s) would be almost inexpressibly more dangerous than a bipolar U.S.–USSR world. The most critical threat that China’s growing strategic-weapons arsenal poses is to the United States. How will it manifest? Will we face periodic, independent risks of nuclear conflict with either China or Russia? Or a combined threat simultaneously? Or serial threats? Or all of the above? Answers to these questions will dictate the nuclear-force levels necessary to deter first-strike launches by either Beijing or Moscow or by both, and to defeat them no matter how nuclear-conflict scenarios may unfold.

None of this is pleasant to contemplate, but, as Herman Kahn advised, thinking about the unthinkable is necessary in a nuclear world. These existential issues must be addressed before we can safely enter trilateral nuclear-arms-control negotiations. Beijing is refusing to negotiate until it achieves rough numerical parity with Washington and Moscow. There is little room for diplomacy anyway, since in February 2023 Russia suspended its participation in New START. Further strategic-weapons agreements with Russia alone would be suicidal: Bilateral nuclear treaties may be sensible in a bipolar nuclear world, but they make no sense in a tripolar world. Russia and China surely grasp this. We can only hope Joe Biden does as well. Next January, our president will have just one year to decide how to handle New START’s impending expiration. We should assess now which candidates understand the stakes and are likely to avoid being encumbered by agreements not just outmoded but dangerous for America.

A closely related challenge is the issue of U.S. nuclear testing. Unarguably, if we do not soon resume underground testing, the safety and reliability of our aging nuclear arsenal will be increasingly at risk, as America’s Strategic Posture, a recent congressionally mandated report, shows. Since 1992, Washington has faced a self-imposed ban on underground nuclear testing even though no international treaty in force prohibits it. The Limited Test Ban Treaty of 1963 bars only atmospheric, space, and underwater testing, a gap that the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), which would have banned all testing, was intended to close. Because, however, not all five legitimate nuclear powers under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ratified the CTBT, it never entered into force and likely never will. Though the U.S. signed the CTBT in 1996, the Senate rejected its ratification by a vote of 51 to 48 in 1999. Russia recently announced its withdrawal, thereby predictably dismaying Biden’s advisers. The next U.S. president should extinguish the CTBT by unsigning it. As was recently revealed, Beijing seems to be reactivating and upgrading its Lop Nor nuclear-testing facility. We can predict confidently that neither China nor Russia will hesitate to do what it thinks necessary to advance its nuclear-weapons capabilities. We should not be caught short.

Additional unfinished business involves the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty, another arms-control “cornerstone,” this one of European security. Effective since 1990, as the Cold War ended, CFE became obsolete almost immediately. The Warsaw Pact disbanded (its members largely joining NATO) and the USSR fragmented. Russia suspended CFE Treaty compliance several times before withdrawing formally in November 2023, having already invaded Ukraine, another CFE Treaty party. In response, the United States and our NATO allies suspended CFE Treaty performance. Like the CTBT, the CFE Treaty is a zombie that the next president should promptly destroy.

The list of arms-control-diplomacy failures goes on. The NPT, for example, has never hindered truly determined proliferators such as North Korea (which now has a second illicit nuclear reactor online) or Iran, much as arms-control agreements have consistently failed to prevent grave violations by determined aggressors.

This long, sad history has given us adequate warning, and the next president should learn from it. The array of threats the United States faces makes it imperative that we initiate substantial, full-spectrum increases in our defense capabilities, from traditional combat arms and cyberspace assets to nuclear weapons. Instead of limiting our capabilities, we must ensure that we know what we need and have it on hand. We are nowhere near that point.

This article was first published in The National Review on January 25, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

Kim Jong Un Drops the Mask

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North Korea officially repudiates ‘peaceful reunification’ in favor of total domination.

North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un last week eviscerated any remaining pretense that his regime seeks peaceful reunification with South Korea. Now that Pyongyang has nearly developed the ability to deliver a nuclear warhead on an intercontinental ballistic missile, Mr. Kim has decided to scrap almost 80 years of intra-Korean policy.

In a Castro-length speech filled with rhetoric about America’s “policy of confrontation,” Mr. Kim announced his decision to strip the North’s “constitution” of all vestiges of peaceful reunification and to eliminate the government offices handling the issue. By effectively recognizing that there are two states on the Korean Peninsula, Mr. Kim has ensured there is no turning back. If war breaks out, he said, the North plans on “completely occupying, subjugating and reclaiming” South Korea and annexing it “as a part of the territory of our Republic.”

Mr. Kim’s belligerence and constitutional changes are bell ringers, the strongest possible signals of his intentions. The audience is both domestic and global. His rhetoric exposes how the South Korean left’s “sunshine policy” of détente and appeasement is not only wrong but dangerous. Mr. Kim refers to Seoul as Pyongyang’s “primary foe and invariable principal enemy.”

Over the years, many credulous South Korean and American leaders have accepted the North’s claims that it pursued nuclear weapons only because it was afraid of being attacked. These observers decided that persuading the Kim dynasty to abandon its nuclear objectives was a matter of proving that the U.S. had no “hostile intent” toward the North. This argument failed to grasp that the regime wanted nuclear weapons to pursue reunification its own way—the North absorbing the South, not the other way around. Using nuclear weapons to threaten Seoul’s allies and neighbors, Pyongyang sought U.S. withdrawal from South Korea. Mr. Kim wanted to convince the Americans to abandon the South Koreans in the event of an invasion.

Counting on weak U.S. leaders who didn’t see South Korea as a strategic asset, and whom they could subject to nuclear blackmail, the Kims followed a version of Deng Xiaoping’s “hide and bide” approach: concealing their growing nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and awaiting a docile regime in Washington. Today, the North sees its moment at hand in a weak Joe Biden—or a feckless Donald Trump, who unilaterally canceled joint U.S.-South Korea military exercises in 2018 without receiving anything in return.

Moreover, despite the “no-limits partnership” between Moscow and Beijing, Mr. Kim has regained sufficient leverage to be able to play Russia against China. His grandfather Kim Il Sung did the same during the Cold War. In 1950, neither Joseph Stalin nor Mao Zedong was enthusiastic about North Korea attacking across the 38th parallel, which they both feared would provoke war with the U.S. Kim Il Sung nonetheless persuaded both leaders that the other supported invasion. On June 25, 1950, Pyongyang caught Seoul and Washington by surprise and nearly drove U.S. forces into the sea.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Moscow’s influence in Pyongyang waned considerably, increasing the North’s reliance on Beijing for its survival. Now equipped with nuclear capabilities and increasingly potent delivery systems, Mr. Kim remembers his grandfather’s game plan. Russia’s failures in Ukraine opened an opportunity for realignment that Mr. Kim swiftly seized, arming Russia at a critical time. Vladimir Putin will soon have a chance to say thanks in person. The Russian leader has announced plans to visit North Korea at “an early date.”

The U.S. failure to repulse Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Iran’s “ring of fire” strategy against Israel is undoubtedly prompting considerable deliberation in China. While Ukraine wasn’t overrun, it is far from being victorious, thereby proving to the world that the West will tolerate unprovoked aggression. In the Middle East, Americans and Israelis disagree on how to prosecute the war on Hamas, likely to the detriment of both countries. Mr. Trump’s only contribution to date has been to say that he’ll resolve both conflicts quickly, details to follow.

With the Biden administration overwhelmed and a presidential election looming, Pyongyang and Beijing may well believe their window of opportunity has arrived. By rallying the North’s people, rewriting its constitution, and abolishing the machinery of reunification diplomacy, Mr. Kim could be preparing to jump through it.

This article was first published in Wall Street Journal on January 25, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

In Moldova, Kremlin imperialism is on the ballot

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Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, Moldova’s much larger neighbor, has overshadowed the dangerous reality that Moldova itself is also a battlefield between Russia and the West for dominance in the territory of the former Soviet Union. And while Moldova is small (population of about 3.25 million), its politics are just as complex as other independent states once part of the USSR.

When the USSR and the Warsaw Pact fragmented, there was talk in both Moldova and Romania, a former Moscow satellite, of reuniting as one country. Interest in reunification dissipated for a variety of reasons, however, from disputes about their long history to practical difficulties to lack of popular support. Many factors that kept the countries separate continue to manifest themselves in Moldovan politics today, often intermixing with critical contemporary issues. In hindsight, reunification might not have left Moldova as vulnerable as it now is, but the moment has passed for the foreseeable future.

An even more intricate, more threatening problem is the status of the pro-Moscow rump “state” of Transdniestria, which still had Russian troops on its soil, although not at levels like the Red Army’s prior garrison. Transdniestria, on the left bank of the Dniester River, is one of several “frozen conflicts,” remnants of the chaos from the USSR’s dissolution, and a convenient way for the Kremlin to keep Moldova unstable and imperfectly sovereign. It is an open sore both for Moldova’s legitimate government and for bordering Ukraine: a locus of smuggling, trafficking, and other criminal behavior.

Not only is it a thorn in Ukraine’s side because of the illegal activities, but because it could also cause trouble “behind the lines” for Kyiv and its military in Russia’s war against Ukraine. Had Russian forces reached Transdniestria during the invasion’s early stages, or even today, they would likely have been given free rein there, outflanking Ukraine’s defenses.

Moldova’s current president, supported by a parliamentary majority coalition, is Maia Sandu. I had the occasion to meet her in late August 2019 in Chisinau, Moldova’s capital, just months after she became prime minister. An economist, she had worked in Moldova’s Ministry of Economy and Trade and briefly at the World Bank in Washington, and she later served several years as minister of education. Then and now, she was perceived as pro-American and anti-corruption.

After leaving the Education Ministry, Sandu formed her own political party, Action and Solidarity, and contested and lost Moldova’s 2016 presidential election to Igor Dodon of the pro-Russian Socialist Party. Dodon was still serving in 2019, and I met with him after seeing Sandu on the trip. Dodon rejected the view that he was pro-Russian, saying he wanted to be neutral between Russia on one hand and NATO and the European Union on the other.

Exemplifying the complex politics of former USSR states, after the 2016 election, Sandu and Dodon formed a parliamentary coalition, supported by the U.S., the EU, and Russia, to oust then-incumbent Prime Minister Vladimir Plahotniuc. Plahotniuc, an oligarch, presided over enormous corruption, including what Moldovans call “the heist of the century,” involving more than $1 billion disappearing from three Moldovan banks. Curiously, this political struggle did not implicate Transdniestria, notwithstanding the high stakes involved.

As prime minister, Sandu’s principal objective was to recover from “the heist,” reduce corruption, and make Moldova attractive for foreign investment, which is critical for economic growth.

When I spoke with her, Sandu was interested in working with newly inaugurated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, with whom I had met the day before in Kyiv. They were discussing digitizing customs enforcement to help squash illicit commerce through Transdniestria, thereby increasing Western confidence in their respective anti-corruption efforts, and bolstering legitimate economies in both countries. Sandu was sufficiently successful and adept enough politically to defeat Dodon in their second contest for the presidency in 2020. Her anti-corruption, anti-Russia-subversion programs have had mixed success — COVID obviously wasn’t helpful, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine produced substantial economic problems, especially high consumer energy prices.

Nonetheless, Sandu has declared for reelection and has committed to hold a referendum on membership in the EU, which her base supports. Her supporters did well in November’s local elections, but not well enough to signal clearly she will be returned as president later this year. It now appears that Sandu and Dodon will face off for the third time, although no one predicts victory in November’s first round of voting, which will have the usual plethora of candidates. Almost certainly, therefore, there will be a Sandu-Dodon runoff in December, as in 2016 and 2020.

Whether Sandu can win a second presidential term is uncertain. What is certain is that Moscow’s efforts to subvert Moldova’s government as part of the effort to reestablish the Russian empire are real and substantial. Sandu’s defeat is central to this strategy’s success, and we will find out by the end of 2024 whether the Kremlin prevails.

This article was first published in The Washington Examiner on January 4, 2024. Click here to read the original article.

Hamas has just won a major victory over Israel

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The hostage deal has costs as well as benefits – and it’s the terrorists who stand to gain most

Beware of terrorists bearing gifts. Compassionate goals and unrelenting war make for a complex mix. While freeing Hamas’s October 7 victims is laudable, there are right and wrong ways to do so. There are costs as well as benefits. Here, Hamas has won a significant victory. Whether the deal sets a definitively negative precedent for Israel remains unclear, but it casts doubt on whether it will attain its legitimate goal of eliminating Hamas’s terrorist threat. 

The agreement is fatally defective in many ways, even if it proceeded flawlessly (which it has not). Hamas is set to release 50 terror victims, and Israel will release 150 accused or convicted criminals, a ratio the reverse of what we should consider civilised. Equating innocent victims with law-breakers is morally appalling. One fifteen-year-old “child” Israel listed for possible release was convicted of attempted murder for stabbing a neighbor. Many are male teenagers. You can guess why.  A critical argument for this deal now is removing hostages from danger, but it does nothing for those left behind. 

The releases are occurring over four days, during which Israeli military activity is “pausing” operations. Undoubtedly, Israel will use the pause to prepare the next phase of hostilities, rotating and resupplying troops and the like. But Hamas terrorists are the real beneficiaries of a cessation of hostilities. They have been pounded by air, and hunted down inside and under Gaza in their extraordinary tunnel networks. Israel’s military campaign is just in its opening phases, but Hamas has been significantly damaged. 

Why let up now? Hamas will use the pause to extricate its terrorists from a difficult position, exfiltrate assets and personnel into Egypt and Israel through undiscovered tunnels, and prepare southern Gaza for the next Israeli offensive. How many chances for faster advances or more surprise attacks will Israel lose due to this pause? How many more Israeli soldiers will die because of Hamas’s opportunity to set additional traps and further entrench itself? 

If Hamas chooses to release more hostages, the pause will be extended one day for each ten hostages. What conceivable justification is there to allow your enemy to unilaterally determine the length of the pause? And what if “technical difficulties” mean only six hostages are released; does Hamas still get another day of respite? Israel will unfairly bear the onus of resuming hostilities, adding leverage to Hamas propaganda efforts to erase its own October 7 barbarity. 

Inexplicably, both Jerusalem and Washington are suspending overhead surveillance of Gaza for six hours a day during the pause. This concession may be more significant than the pause itself because it denies Israel information about Hamas’s activities. Israel has agreed to be “eyeless in Gaza” during these terrorist-friendly time windows. 

The White House boasts that the deal means “a massive surge of humanitarian relief” into Gaza, but without adequate assurances the relief will go to those in need. When Herbert Hoover launched America’s first major international relief effort in World War I, he insisted on two conditions: aid must go only to non-combatants, and the donors must distribute or closely monitor its distribution. We have no idea how much will fall into Hamas’s hands, enabling more terrorism. 

Israel’s critical military problem is the opportunities it will miss by halting in mid-stream its increasingly successful assault. Hamas’s strategy is to take any pause, however short, and whatever its rationale, and stretch it into a permanent ceasefire. That may not happen on the first try, but the pressure on Israel to succumb will grow. 

Israel’s critical political risk is seeing its determination to eliminate Hamas undermined. Even chancier is the strength of US backing, which is already weakening. Biden’s initially robust rhetorical support for Israel has cooled, and his resolve shrinks daily under the assault of the Democratic party’s pro-Palestinian Left-wing. His problems will grow more acute as the 2024 presidential campaign unfolds. 

The benefits of freeing hostages are visible now. The much larger costs are on their way. 

This article was first published in The Telegraph on November 24, 2023. Click here to read the original article.

Israel is running out of time before Biden damns it to defeat

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We should be alarmed: the US’s support is rapidly eroding in part thanks to Iran’s propaganda efforts

US secretary of state Antony Blinken’s trip this week to Israel, Jordan and other key players in the region vividly demonstrates the dangerous misconceptions underlying America’s Middle East policy. Blinken’s visit also shows how rapidly Joe Biden’s superficially strong support for Israel is eroding. The Israel Defense Forces are now racing against time before he wilts under domestic and international pressure, and the West’s collective enemies exploit his flawed world view. 

Why, a month after one of this century’s worst acts of barbarism, are the perpetrators and their puppet-masters moving ever closer to skating free? 

First, before and after the October 7 massacres, Iran, Hamas and others masterfully deployed their information-warfare campaigns, asymmetrically attacking Israel’s very legitimacy. Jerusalem was initially unprepared, slow in responding, and still faces inhibitions – such as a need to tell the truth – that Hamas and its allies don’t share. The anti-Israel campaign’s target is not “the Arab street”, but Western decision-makers. Indeed, across the Middle East, most cities are quiet, almost business-as-usual. 

But in America and Britain, pro-Palestinian demonstrators jam the streets, denouncing alleged Israeli war crimes, and explaining away, or even justifying, Hamas’s invasion. The aim is to exploit Western weakness and lack of resolution. It seems to be working. In the UK, Labour is badly split, and in Washington, Biden faces intense pressure from the “progressive” Left. Keir Starmer sees his longed-for premiership dissolving before his eyes, and Biden worries his party’s extremists could cost him victory next November. They may both be correct.

Secondly, neither Washington nor London have articulated the larger strategic context of the Hamas attack, namely the fanatical religious and hegemonic aspirations of Tehran’s mullahs. Not doing so inevitably shields Iran and its proxies and impairs Israel’s inherent right to self-defence. Failing to see the real effective mastermind precludes addressing the full enormity of the risks Israel and its allies face – not just terrorist attacks, but straight up the escalation ladder to Iran’s nuclear weapons. Israelis get this, which is why former Mossad director Yossi Cohen urges hunting down every Iranian involved in the October 7 attacks. 

Hamas did not wake up one fine day and decide by itself to attack Israel. Along with Hezbollah, Yemen’s Houthi rebels, Iraqi Shia militia, and many others, Hamas is a beneficiary of Iranian weapons, training, and finance. Its sneak attack has to be seen as part of Tehran’s larger strategy. Taken by surprise, Jerusalem is still struggling to grasp comprehensively Iran’s plan. Tehran’s surrogates are concealing their hand, but Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s recent speech shows their menace and resolve to break the will of Israel and its supporters by threatening wider regional war.

The Iran-Russia axis is also becoming clearer, with ominous reports that the Wagner Group will provide air defences to Hezbollah. Moscow has also criticised Israeli air strikes in Syria for violating international law, reversing long-standing acceptance of such operations. Russia and China, meanwhile, are supporting Hamas with propaganda and disinformation – a significant political signal.

Thirdly, through strategic failures of imagination and inadequate explanations of the full threats Israel faces from Iran, Britain and America risk losing the overall diplomatic battle. Blinken’s trip was to advocate for a “pause” in hostilities to allow more humanitarian aid to enter Gaza. Others are calling for a full “ceasefire”. There is no meaningful distinction between these verbal formulations. A former US Senate staffer revealed the game by writing that halting the hostilities “that begins as a temporary measure, but which could be extended, is vitally necessary”.

Moreover, while the fate of the hostages Hamas kidnapped is important, and rightly a priority for Israel and others, it is not this conflict’s true centrepiece. Governments have moral obligations to protect their citizens, and Hamas’s taking of hostages will inscribe the full picture of the group’s inhumanity into history. 

Nonetheless, a government’s moral obligations extend to the whole nation, which Israel sees today as existentially threatened. Benjamin Netanyahu correctly emphasises that it is precisely military pressure that will produce more hostage releases, not gestures of goodwill, which Iran and its terrorist surrogates disdain. But if they persuade guileless Westerners that the stakes are only humanitarian issues in Gaza, they are more likely to prevail in arguing that Israel bears responsibility for the war continuing.

Netanyahu rejected Blinken’s démarche because Israel is literally in hand-to-hand combat against Hamas, but this is only the start of the propaganda campaign. When Biden calls for Israel to “pause” and sends Blinken to plead his case in Jerusalem, we should be alarmed. Israel has the resolve to continue, but its fate may lie in Washington and London. That is not good news.

This article was first published in The Telegraph on November 7, 2023. Click here to read the original article.



Biden risks American lives by refusing to hold Iran to account

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While there is no serious doubt Iran is driving the Middle East crisis, President Biden continues ignoring the strategic implications of this fundamental reality.

As in Ukraine, where the administration worries more about Russian “escalation” than Ukrainian victory, Biden worries more about the Middle East conflict “spreading” beyond Israel and Hamas than about defeating the Iran-directed threats.

There is no sign the White House is prepared to hold Iran accountable for what has already happened to innocent Israelis and Americans, amid increasingly troubling signs Iran’s future actions will also not trigger accountability.

Israel will continue inflicting significant damage to Hamas and other Iranian proxies, but the terrorists’ strategic masters in Tehran are escaping unharmed.

Biden’s rhetoric about Israel’s inherent right of self-defense is robust, and he has, so far, strongly supported increased aid.

But watch for his resolve to weaken under sustained assaults from the Democratic Party’s pro-Palestinian left wing, the international High Minded and the media.

Similarly, Biden and his advisers have taken a tough rhetorical line regarding strikes against Americans by Iran’s proxy forces across the region and moved two carrier battle groups to the eastern Mediterranean and Arabian Gulf.

Unfortunately, however, as with aiding Israel (the “little Satan” to Tehran’s mullahs), the White House is already underperforming in effectively protecting Americans (citizens of the “Great Satan”).

Biden’s rhetoric about preventing attacks on our people, regionally and worldwide, directly conflicts with what is really his highest Middle East priority: avoiding escalation of the Hamas-Israel conflict.

As a result, Biden’s red line of a strong, swift response to attacks on US military forces, foreign-service officers or just plain Americans is disappearing before our eyes.

Look closely enough, and you can still see it: filed right next to Barack Obama’s red line on the consequences for Syria if “we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”

Governments, even the United States’, have very little leeway to draw and then ignore red lines before their credibility is shredded.

Biden is adding to the credibility gap Obama excavated, and to Donald Trump’s bluster and braggadocio that no one took seriously, leaving America’s reputation today in deep disarray.

Iran’s proxies have continued firing at US bases without retaliation, fortunately with only minor casualties recently.

(One US contractor died of cardiac arrest while sheltering during an alert.)

Undoubtedly, voices within the administration are advising the president not to respond because, after all, no Americans were killed or seriously wounded.

Why risk the conflict spreading or escalating?

The administration itself concedes that Hamas has prevented US citizens from leaving Gaza.

These Americans, and other foreigners denied exit, are effectively Hamas hostages, however much The New York Times and its ilk try to deny the reality. 

Some may be leaving shortly, but those remaining are merely bargaining chips for Hamas.

And US citizens are at risk not only in the Middle East but globally.

FBI Director Chris Wray has testified clearly that the terrorist threat here at home remains high because of Iran’s activities and those of its surrogates — but also from terrorists motivated by antisemitism or other extremist views.

The risk of terrorism is not confined to the United States either; it extends to allies like the United Kingdom, where authorities are carefully watching what Iran is up to.

Bluntly stated, however, this excessively cautious White House policy means it is simply waiting for Americans to die before it retaliates forcefully.

Such reluctance to act is supposedly buttressed by lack of evidence directly tying Iran to its proxies’ terrorism, the same excuse Biden has used since Oct. 7, trying to separate Iran from Hamas’ original barbarity.

This approach is mindless — evidence Iran is successfully deterring Biden, just as Russia has deterred him in Ukraine through fear of “escalation.”

They are laughing at Washington in Tehran and at Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthi and Iraqi Shia militia headquarters.

Iran shamelessly advocates the anti-American attacks, in effect claiming credit for them and mocking US weakness.

Almost no one in the Middle East has any doubt Tehran is responsible.

This is not only unacceptable but counterproductive even from Biden’s perspective.

At least 31 US citizens have been killed already and Hamas holds perhaps 13 hostage, in the latest counts.

Americans are at risk worldwide.

Instead of acting now to retaliate for what has already happened, and to act pre-emptively to deter future Iranian-directed terrorism, the White House is being intimidated by Iran.

It’s only a matter of time before we pay a terrible human price. Israel is often said to be “the canary in the coal mine” for America in the West.

Biden and his advisers aren’t listening, and Tehran knows it.

This article was first published in the New York Post on November 1, 2023.  Click Here to read the original article.

Voters should blame Biden AND Trump for new Afghan terror risks

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This article was first published in the New York Post on April 29, 2023. Click Here to read the original article.

President Joe Biden’s announcement that he will seek a second term combined with Donald Trump’s surging effort to secure his third consecutive Republican nomination guarantee one thing for sure.

Their combined failures in Afghanistan, both the catastrophic strategic consequences of US and NATO withdrawal and the humiliating operational mishandling of the departure itself, should be key issues for their opponents in 2024’s campaign.

Trump’s view of his abilities as a great dealmaker is central to his case for being president.

He repeatedly emphasizes this inflated view of himself — and thereby his blindness to international realities — most recently by asserting he could resolve Russia’s aggression against Ukraine in 24 hours if he could just get Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a room together. Trump’s acolytes unfortunately accept his boasting at face value.

More knowledgeable observers understand that Trump’s views are fantasy.

They simply ignore what he says as “Trump being Trump,” missing, however, that the former president’s rhetoric is not just hot air.

His 24-hour mantra about Ukraine, for example, in fact shows he doesn’t grasp the complexities of that or almost any other national-security issue.
Trump proceeds on his often-stated belief that facts and subject-matter knowledge generally are unimportant compared to the personal relationships he can establish with foreign leaders, especially those who are America’s adversaries.

With Putin, China’s Xi Jinping, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and Turkey’s Recep Erdogan, Trump claims that his interpersonal skills are such that he can separate these hard-headed authoritarians from their own national interests and achieve outcomes favorable to the United States.

Of course, the former president has little to no understanding of what America’s national interests are, basing his judgments instead on what is best for Donald J. Trump.

His unilateral diplomacy with the Taliban excluded the legitimate Afghan government Washington spent 20 years trying to nurture.
The widespread knowledge inside Afghanistan that Trump was negotiating solely with the terrorists convinced people that he was determined to withdraw no matter what the Taliban actually agreed to — he was merely seeking cover for departing unilaterally.

Biden is equally culpable. As newly inaugurated president, Biden had every right to reject Trump’s fatally flawed agreement, which the Taliban had already violated even before the ink was dry.

At a minimum, Biden could have taken more time to evaluate the deal and its implementation.

Indeed, Biden did order a short extension of the withdrawal of US and NATO forces and could have done much more.
The widespread perception that Biden agreed with Trump on exiting, heedless of the risks and costs not just to Afghanistan but to America, discredited and demoralized both Kabul’s civilian government and the Afghan National Army.

It was no surprise when both the government and its military collapsed so quickly. They knew they had no chance of survival over the long term, especially since neither US president thought seriously of holding the Taliban to its commitments and reversing the withdrawal in the absence of scrupulous Taliban compliance.

It was therefore entirely predictable that the Taliban’s return to power would produce a flood of foreign terrorist fighters back to Afghanistan’s remote and inhospitable territory, establishing bases from which they could plot new terrorist attacks worldwide.

Among the classified documents compromised in the still-growing “Discord” intelligence scandal are Pentagon analyses of ISIS-Khorasan activities in-country and evidence of the scope of, and preparations for, their possible global threats.

This is not the first time Biden administration officials have concluded terrorists were returning to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan in significant numbers.

In public congressional testimony just months after the withdrawal (and subsequently), the Defense Department conceded that both al Qaeda and ISIS were rapidly recreating the capability to launch terrorist attacks from Afghanistan against America.

While the Taliban has now reportedly killed the ISIS leader responsible for the murderous attacks at Kabul’s airport during the chaotic withdrawal effort, ISIS remains formidable, as does al Qaeda, still closely linked to the Taliban.

In the potentially tragic case of a terrorist attack against the United States in the 18 months until the 2024 elections, Americans will know who to blame if Trump, Biden or both receive their respective parties’ nominations.

They have fully proven their incompetence in dealing with the Taliban.

We can only hope to avoid further proof in the form of additional US casualties. But if we don’t, our fellow citizens’ verdict will not be hard to predict.

Is Washington’s arms control theology finally on the verge of collapse? 

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Three freshly installed Republican House chairmen of key national security committees are raising potentially fatal issues for the New START arms-control treaty between the U.S. and Russia. In letters to Biden Cabinet officials, the chairmen ask whether Russia is in material breach of the agreement. Along with the administration’s failing, misguided effort to rejoin the flawed 2015 Iran nuclear deal, one could ask whether Washington’s arms control theology is finally verging on collapse. 

The House chairmen of the Foreign Affairs, Armed Services and Intelligence Committees (Reps. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and Michael Turner (R-Ohio), respectively) are men to be reckoned with. Although the Senate has constitutional power to ratify treaties, for the next two years, House Republicans can require extensive scrutiny of Russia’s New START performance.  

One of President Biden’s first official acts (and a badly mistaken one) was extending the treaty until Feb. 4, 2026, after America’s 2024 presidential election. With no end in sight to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the odds Moscow and Washington can agree on a successor deal under Biden diminish every day, further reason to ensure the White House fully describes Russia’s potential treaty violations. 

The House chairmen should also scrutinize White House efforts to make enough concessions to Tehran for Washington to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Despite administration assurances that Iran’s ongoing uprising against the ayatollahs has halted its diplomacy, the obsession to rejoin remains. 

New START has always been a bad deal. Its warhead limits and “counting rules” for attributing nuclear devices to delivery vehicles, Cold War-era methodologies, are outdated and ineffective. Moreover, New START’s ceilings, even in their day, failed to reflect the different status of Russia and the United States, as President George W. Bush’s 2002 Treaty of Moscow did, namely that Washington needs different upper limits than Moscow because it faces more threats than just a bipolar face-off with Russia.  

Finally, New START’s verification provisions do not afford nearly the level of certainty necessary to satisfy U.S. concerns, given decades of cheating on similar agreements by Russia and other authoritarian states, which all have problems with the truth. 

In today’s world, New START is even more dangerous, which is why Biden’s 2021 decision to extend its terms for five years without any modifications leaves America in an ever-more-precarious position. 

Added to these pre-existing concerns, the questions raised by Chairmen McCaul, Rogers and Turner underscore legitimate concerns about the treaty even if Russia were fully compliant. 

The State Department has reportedly sent Congress a report that finds that Russian violated the treaty’s verification and consultation provisions, which State says are repairable. Desperate to save New START, the more serious violations of concern to the three chairmen are not addressed. Congressional oversight is clearly warranted. 

Even beyond the failures of New START itself and the prospect that Russia is violating it, the agreement is fatally outdated for additional reasons. Here, the three Republican chairmen and their Senate counterparts can do important work over the next two years to elaborate on these new issues and to prepare a successor administration to address the dangers ahead. 

First, the days of meaningful bilateral U.S.-Russian strategic weapons treaties have ended. During the Cold War, we lived in essentially a bipolar nuclear world, the arsenals of other nuclear states, legitimate or illegitimate, being insignificant for our purposes.  

Today, however, China is rapidly manufacturing and deploying nuclear warheads in significant numbers, likely approaching the New START limits applicable to Russia and the U.S. imminently. The U.S. simply cannot accept bilateral limits on its nuclear stockpiles or delivery systems when it will soon face two peer or near-peer nuclear adversaries, a dramatically dangerous new environment. 

Whether Moscow and Beijing combine against Washington, or we face one confrontation with the risk of another following, we are in a tri-polar nuclear world, and must plan and act accordingly. Thus far, China has flatly refused to engage in diplomacy, saying its current warhead stockpile is too low to join U.S.-Russia talks. Beijing is essentially asking for a pass until it comes close to our existing ceilings, and only then talk, an approach in which Russia has acquiesced. We should tell Moscow sooner rather than later that there will be no talks on extending or modifying New START until China sits at our negotiating table. 

Second, a basic New START flaw is its failure to limit tactical nuclear weapons, which Moscow possesses in far greater numbers than Washington. With Russian President Vladimir Putin threatening to use tactical strikes in Ukraine, there is no longer a serious argument to allow this issue to remain outside the overall nuclear-arms negotiations. If Russia disagrees, we should not resume talks, and should make our own plans at both the strategic and tactical levels accordingly. The potential for substantially broader coverage of nuclear warheads also raises new, difficult verification issues beyond the existing treaty’s failings. 

Third, New START fails to deal satisfactorily with new technologies that have matured since 2010, especially advanced hypersonic capabilities. Biden’s failure to address these new developments before extending the treaty in 2021 was a grave mistake, and it would be diplomatic malpractice to repeat it in discussing a successor deal. 

While we consider our post-New START options, we are also, hopefully, witnessing the last throes of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. For any number of compelling reasons, the White House should do far more to support the Iranian opposition and its struggle to overthrow the ayatollahs.  

One benefit of regime change in Tehran would likely be a new government that renounces the pursuit of nuclear weapons and opens the files of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and other actors in its nuclear-weapons program. We will undoubtedly learn far more about how the mullahs led western governments by the nose during the negotiation and implementation of the 2015 nuclear deal, and especially how Iran repeatedly violated it. This new information might even shake the faith of the arms-control priesthood, but at a minimum it would enlighten those determined to prevent nuclear proliferation. 

These are all issues for the 2024 campaign. Chairmen McCaul, Rogers and Turner have done the country a great service by getting us started. 

John Bolton was national security adviser to President Trump from 2018 to 2019, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and held senior State Department posts in 2001-2005 and 1985-1989. His most recent book is “The Room Where It Happened” (2020). He is the founder of John Bolton Super PAC, a political action committee supporting candidates who believe in a strong U.S. foreign policy. 

 Iran is stuck in Biden’s blind spot 

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By Ambassador John Bolton

This article first appeared in the Washington Post, on August 15th 2022. Click here to view the original article

John R. Bolton served as national security adviser under President Donald Trump and is the author of “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir.” 

It has been somewhat surreal over the past few days, I admit, to be speaking publicly about Iran’s plot to assassinate me and many other American citizens on American soil. Fortunately, as an alumnus of the Reagan administration’s Justice Department, I have seen once again the diligent, enormously competent and courageous work of FBI agents and Justice Department attorneys who uncovered and pursued Iran’s murderous plots. 

And, thanks to President Biden, I again receive Secret Service protection, as I did when I served as national security adviser. 

However, what gives surrealism an entirely new meaning is that the Biden White House, faced with Iran’s broad campaign of anti-U.S. terrorism, amounting to an act of war, is still obsessively grinding along to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps efforts targeting me reached the point where the Justice Department filed criminal charges against Shahram Poursafi, unsealed last week. Interestingly, the charging documents’ narrative of Poursafi’s criminal conduct ends in late April, just as Secretary of State Antony Blinken first publicly admitted Iran’s threats to current and former American officials in congressional testimony. A significant number of former public servants are also in Iran’s sights, including former secretary of state Mike Pompeo, former defense secretary Mark T. Esper and others not now appropriate to name, but whose peril has been widely reported. 

Nearly four months passed between Blinken’s public corroboration of Iran’s threat and the filing of criminal charges. The only reasonable explanation is that the president feared revealing the accusations would imperil his all-consuming goal of reviving the Iran nuclear deal. 

Iran’s malign efforts, however, do not stop with public officials. Consider naturalized American citizen Masih Alinejad, an advocate for women’s rights in Iran. Just weeks ago, an Iranian agent armed with an AK-47 arrived at her Brooklyn home, intending, in the FBI’s view, to kill her. On Friday, Salman Rushdie, long an Iranian target, was grievously wounded by an assailant immediately lauded by Hasan Nasrallah, leader of Iran’s terrorist surrogate Hezbollah, as “a Lebanese champion” who had “implemented” the “honorable fatwa” promulgated by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Agence France-Presse reported that pro-regime Iranian media hailed the attack, and quoted Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to Iran’s nuclear negotiators, tweeting, “I won’t be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred and contempt for Muslims and Islam,” while implying the attack was a U.S. false-flag operation. 

The assassination attempts on Alinejad and Rushdie might or might not be coincidental. Along with the extensive list of present and former government officials at risk, however, this is no small matter, except apparently to the Biden administration. We face a concerted threat to America itself, not unconnected threats to random individuals. Iran does not fear U.S. deterrence. 

Accordingly, continued pursuit of the nuclear deal signals U.S. weakness worldwide. Russia has invaded Ukraine; suppose the Kremlin was now trying to murder Americans, as in 2018 when it attacked defectors in Britain with chemical weapons? Would Biden still hope for climate change negotiations with Vladimir Putin, as John F. Kerry suggested before the invasion? Or, given China’s threat to Taiwan, would we still conduct trade negotiations if clandestine Beijing agents were similarly engaged? Too many Americans are already threatened with death on American soil by a foreign government. It’s time for Biden to reject business as usual. 

In recent weeks, the White House has nonetheless heedlessly, zealously continued its policy of capitulation, reportedly making further concessions to Tehran. These include whitewashing long-standing Iranian obstruction of International Atomic Energy Agency efforts to pursue necessary investigations, and weakening the scope and effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against the very Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps that is attempting multiple assassinations. 

How to explain this manic quest for the Holy Grail of reviving the 2015 deal? Analytically, Biden is compartmentalizing Iran’s nuclear program in one silo and its terrorist activities in another, treating them as separable and unrelated. He is engaging in the classic diplomatic fallacy of “mirror-imaging,” believing his adversaries see the world the same way he does, sealed off into separate compartments. 

The reality in Tehran is precisely the opposite. The ayatollahs’ malevolence is comprehensive, with nuclear weapons, assassination and terrorism all elements in their full spectrum of capabilities. By failing to grasp the wider scope of Iran’s menace, and plainly failing to deter it, Biden’s dangerous effort to resurrect the nuclear deal is threatening America’s larger interests. Substantive arguments against the 2015 agreement and the concessions Biden has made over nearly 19 months in office should already suffice to bury the deal, but the broader threat Iran now raises should be the final nail in its coffin. 

Biden’s bizarre policy of “nuclear deal über alles” reflects an instinct for the capillary when it comes to Washington-Tehran relations. Iran’s nuclear program is only a symptom of the real problem: the regime itself. That is what the United States must focus on ending.