The Iranian regime is nothing if not consistent. It always manages to do the wrong thing, at the wrong time, in the wrong place, for the wrong reasons. Thursday brought more evidence that this woeful streak continues.
The day broke with reports of two oil tankers burning off the coast of Iran. Then, in an afternoon appearance before reporters in Washington, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced: “It is the assessment of the United States government that the Islamic Republic of Iran is responsible for the attacks that occurred in the Gulf of Oman today.”
Pompeo’s statement surprised no one. A month ago, National Security Adviser John Bolton cited “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” on the part of Iran.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in Tehran when word came of the attacks. He’d flown in to try to calm things down. To little avail, it seems. Both of the tankers attacked were Japanese. The Iranian regime couldn’t look more guilty and reckless.
Or maybe it can, because that wasn’t all that was going on. Just hours before the tankers were hit, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired a missile at Saudi Arabia's Abha airport, wounding 26 civilians. The rebels are sponsored by Iran. Tehran no doubt provided that missile.
All of this comes on the heels of the recent revelation that Hezbollah, another of Iran’s stooges, had planned to launch a major terrorist attack in London in 2015. Luckily, the plot was thwarted.
Thursday’s violence is not hard to interpret. Iran’s way of pushing back against complaints that it’s a terrorist state is to act more like a terrorist state.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, might as well take out a Times Square billboard proclaiming that he and his gang are the bad boys of the Middle East.
President Trump came into office saying that Iran was the chief source of instability in the Middle East. That’s one reason why the United States pulled out of the feckless Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration.
Now Tehran is doing Trump’s work for him – begging for the rest of the world to see the regime for the malicious actor it really is.
This can only make it harder for the Europeans to continue to argue for sticking with the Iran nuclear deal. The claim that the deal can curb the Iranian regime’s irresponsible behavior has gone up in the smoke of those burning oil tankers.
Iran’s actions also make it harder for those defending the nation’s deadly surrogates.
Members of Congress calling on the Trump administration to stop supporting those fighting the Houthis in Yemen must feel pretty sheepish. Ditto for the Europeans who insist that Hezbollah isn’t a terrorist organization. And the same goes for the Americans who are advising our friends and foes alike to just “wait Trump out” and then the U.S. will re-up the Iran deal and all will be fine.
They all sound like British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin after his 1938 appeasement agreement with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Chamberlain said the pact with Germany would bring “peace for our time.” Instead, the agreement was a prelude to World War II.
As for the Trump administration, so far its response to Iran has been spot on. Pompeo’s appearance before the media was pitch perfect.
Some pundits want to start World War III. Others reflexively want to blame Iran’s actions (and everything else that goes wrong in the world) on President Trump. But so far, members of the Trump team have acted like real statesmen and leaders. They didn’t react; they responded.
The United States has prepositioned military assets to deal with exactly this kind of threat. Bolton’s May 5 warning of “troubling” signs of coming Iranian attacks was accompanied with the announcement that Washington was deploying a carrier strike group and additional bombers to the Middle East.
At the same time, however, the Trump administration sent multiple signals that it remains perfectly willing to undertake unconditional talks if or when Tehran calms down.
True to form, Tehran has responded stupidly. Yet rather than freak out, Pompeo firmly and calmly responded that the United States will continue to “stand with its partners and allies to safeguard global commerce and regional stability.”
That is exactly the kind of responsible, steady leadership the world needs.
Steady as you go, Mr. President. Stay the course.