After Barbaric Israel Attack, Biden Must Get Tough and Stop Appeasing Iran
Hamas’ brutal weekend assault — murdering, wounding and abducting thousands of civilians — is being called Israel’s 9/11.
It has compelled Israel to restore its deterrence, including by conducting what appears to be a campaign to obliterate the terrorists’ military capabilities, after tolerating their rule in Gaza for 15 years.
The barbaric attack should also prompt a reorientation of US policy in the Middle East — especially away from accommodating Iran, which heavily funds Hamas and helped plot the onslaught.
President Joe Biden should be commended for offering Israel “rock solid and unwavering” support.
His administration is reportedly pledging to provide billions of dollars in additional military assistance as Israel pivots to what looks to be — albeit in a fluid situation — a significant ground attack on Gaza and prepares in case Iranian proxy Hezbollah attacks from the north.
Biden’s strong pro-Israel statements have been most welcome, but unfortunately, and tellingly, he did not even mention Iran in his latest remarks Tuesday.
It’s debatable whether Biden’s recent unfreezing of $6 billion in Iranian assets, in return for five Americans hostages, helped fund the Hamas attack, as some Republicans claim. The attack took time to plan and the money may not have been spent yet, but Tehran could budget based on it.
Yet the administration’s extremely lax enforcement of existing sanctions has undeniably enabled Iran to reap tens of billions of dollars.
In 2020, under President Donald Trump’s maximum-pressure policy, Iranian oil-export revenue was an estimated $8 billion.
Under Biden, it was as much as $37 billion in 2021 and $54 billion in 2022 and is expected to be $46 billion in 2023.
In three years, Iran arguably will have earned some $30 billion more than if the Trump enforcement had continued.
Its accessible foreign-exchange reserves have soared accordingly, from around $6 billion at the end of 2020 to a projected $43 billion in 2023.
This economic windfall might have enabled Tehran before 10/7 to boost its funding of Hamas as well as Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah, all of which have ratcheted up their attacks on Israel this year.
If Iran was able to funnel $100 million to Hamas in 2020, in 2023, when its oil revenue has increased manyfold, that sum could be far higher.
Further, the Biden administration has emboldened Iranian aggression by avoiding confrontation.
Our group, JINSA, has tracked more than 90 attacks by Iran and proxies against American soldiers in Iraq and Syria under Biden — and the United States has retaliated only four times.
The administration needs to reverse course from this extreme accommodation of Iran and initiate a far more confrontational approach.
Most important in the near term, Biden should sternly and unequivocally convey to Iranian leaders it holds them responsible for the confirmed death of 14 Americans in Israel and 100-plus hostages, reportedly including Americans, its proxy has taken.
Biden should publicly declare that unlike the $6 billion deal, the United States will not pay a cent to Hamas for the hostages’ release.
Instead, not only will Hamas leadership pay but so, too, will responsible Iranian leaders if Hamas doesn’t release them all.
The administration’s move to redeploy US naval and air assets to the eastern Mediterranean is important to deter further escalation, but it also should be positioning US ships, planes and troops in and around the Persian Gulf to credibly signal it is prepared to hold Iran accountable for any further American casualties.
We could further deter Iran by concluding a mutual-defense pact with Israel, as JINSA recently discussed.
Long term, Biden should make regime collapse his strategic aim with Iran, applying pressure on all fronts to help heighten the regime’s internal stress and hasten the Iranian people overthrowing it.
He should certainly do nothing to strengthen the regime by unfreezing assets and not enforcing sanctions.
The administration must ensure Tehran does not achieve nuclear-weapons capability.
Since the White House is clearly averse to a military confrontation with Iran, the best would be Biden supplying Israel weapons it needs to conduct, if necessary, a military campaign to attack Iranian nuclear facilities.
That includes expediting delivery to Israel of KC-46 aerial-refueling tankers and precision-guided munitions (both transferred and prepositioned), the latter of which Israel needs anyway for its war against Hamas.
The Biden team should also inform our Mideastern partners the United States will conduct relations with them based on their reaction to this atrocity.
That involves our Gulf Arab friends, who initially took a detached view; Turkey, which has hosted Hamas leaders for years; and Qatar, a major Hamas funder that placed sole blame on Israel.
The administration recently designated Qatar a “major non-NATO ally,” which Biden should reconsider unless Qatar changes course.
Like 9/11, 10/7 marks a turning point in the Middle East and a drawing of clearer lines.
The terror attack should prompt the Biden administration to adopt more confrontational policy toward Tehran.
Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. Blaise Misztal is JINSA’s vice president for policy.
Originally Published in New York Post.