Somebody in Tehran wants to play Baghdad on the Hudson. Here is what to do, Mr. President.
1. Acknowledge the Obvious. No surprise that the indictment shows links to Qods Force, a special unit of the Iran Revolutionary Guards Corps. Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. The Iranian Intelligence Service, as well as Hamas and Hezbollah (both sponsored by Tehran), have a presence and network in the Western Hemisphere.
2. Admit Mistakes. The U.S. has done far too little to deter state-sponsored terrorism. This summer, President Obama revealed his “new and improved” strategy for combating terrorism. Despite its record, Tehran was cited just once. Why has the White House downplayed state-sponsored terrorism? Because the Obama Doctrine calls for engaging with America’s enemies.
The Iranians, though, could see for themselves this past summer how the U.S. responds to state-sponsored terrorism. Press reports showed that American intelligence had concluded in a classified report late last year that Russia’s military intelligence was responsible for a bomb blast outside the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi, Georgia. The bombing came just as the White House was pressing for approval of the New START nuclear agreement with Moscow and boasting of how it had “reset” relations with Russia.
Did our president express his outrage at Russia’s role? No. The White House simply told the Georgians to keep the whole affair quiet and scolded the Russians privately. Iran apparently learned from this. It’s time for the president to rescind and rewrite the counterterrorism strategy.
3. Rethink Deterrence. It’s not surprising that U.S. successes against transnational terrorism have not served as much of a deterrent. After all, the president declared in his counterterrorism strategy that he wanted to start treating terrorists as if they’re criminals. So if the plot was uncovered, Iran could expect to pay no great price.
4. Don’t Sit on Your Hands. The administration must now respond with strong measures. The U.S. is fully within its rights to conduct a proportional military strike against a suitable, feasible and acceptable target. The Iranian government knows full well that the Quods Force is a terrorist group that has provided material support to the Taliban and other groups. The Tehran government has not restrained this organization and is responsible for its conduct.
5. Retool the Obama Doctrine. A simple military strike, however, is not enough. U.S. foreign policy, which has been in the retreat, has failed to act as a deterrent to either state-sponsored terrorism for Iran or transnational terrorist groups such as al Qaeda.
U.S. action must be accompanied by a robust reversal policy. The U.S. must stop withdrawal from Afghanistan and disengagement from Iraq. And it must not return to treating transnational terrorism as a simple crime. The U.S. must rebuild its military presence in the region, including moving a carrier group permanently back into the Mediterranean.
6. Turn Up the Heat on Tehran. The administration must also take off the “kid gloves” in dealing with Iran. In addition, to fully enforce sanctions the White House must begin to seriously press the regime on Tehran’s abysmal human rights record.
7. Clear Options for Prosecution. An individual is currently in custody and a second individual is sought by the FBI. Neither is eligible for a military commission, as neither fits the legal definition of a person whom commissions has jurisdiction over.
8. “Don’t Shy Away from Effective Counterterrorism Tools.” It is not known which, if any, counterterrorism tools were used to make the case against these two men. It is also not known whether others were involved at this point. We can say that the PATRIOT Acts “Lone Wolf” provision is only applicable to non-citizens. So, it may have been used against Shakuri, but we have no way of knowing.
It is highly likely that the government used the FISA court during the investigative stages of this case, especially for techniques such as roving wiretaps. We shoudl never apologize for using these tools appropriately and robustly.
9. Call Out the Judge. The use of federal court in this specific context is highly appropriate. If convicted, the defendants face life without parole.
10. Finish the Job. The administration must make every effort to bring Shakuri back to the United States to face justice.