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On Confronting the Iranian Regime - by Majid Rafizadeh for The Gatestone Institute - 20.01.24

Any evaluation of the Biden administration's policy towards the Iranian regime (and towards the Palestinians) reveals a failure: the deadly Western miscalculation that "being nice" will be reciprocated. In the culture of the Middle East, that simply does not work. Instead, one is looked on as a gullible sucker or juicy "mark," like a jolly drunk at a strip club.


As Osama bin Laden pointed out, especially for his region, "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse."


Former U.S. Army General Jack Keane recently noted that many possible targets are already on "the list" and suggested taking out the military installations that have been launching such attacks. Other possible responses floated include sinking Iran's spy ship currently in the Red Sea and taking out Iran's military communications systems.


If Iran itself is not made to pay a price, it will simply continue using its proxies to escalate aggression and take the hits. After all, that is why Iran has proxies in the first place.

 

The Biden administration's reluctance to robustly respond to the rogue Islamist regime of Iran apparently only reinforces the inclination of Iran's political and military leadership to inflict more harm. In 1988, President Reagan launched Operation Praying Mantis, which retaliated against Iran for its attack on a U.S. Navy ship, sent a strong message to Iran, and reduced the threat posed by Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf.


The Biden administration's reluctance to robustly respond to the rogue Islamist regime of Iran apparently only reinforces the inclination of Iran's political and military leadership to inflict more harm.


When US responses lack decisiveness, the Islamic Republic interprets this "restraint" as a failure of nerve on the part of the US and the international community. Such leniency, it seems, simply invigorates the regime to persist in disrupting regional and global stability, and escalate its assertive military maneuvers and support for terrorist activities.


As Osama bin Laden pointed out, especially for his region, "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse."


The Iranian regime's militaristic involvement has currently been unfolding its tentacles across multiple conflicts: Iran's support for the Houthis; attacks on ships in the region, blocking international commerce along the Suez Canal's vital international trade route; encouraging, supplying and funding its proxies Hamas and Hezbollah in their attacks on Israel, and supplying Russia with drones to attack the West's ally Ukraine. At the center of all these malign activities is Iran.


Its participation in attacks on American bases and soldiers in both Syria and Iraq simply showcases it intent to drive the US out of the region, the sooner to entrench its Shiite hegemony in the oil-rich region.


So far, just since mid-October, Iran has orchestrated more than 137 attacks using drones, mortars, and short-range missiles on US soldiers in Syria and Iraq, wounding many of them severely. Iran's military assistance to Russia underscores its key destabilizing role on the global stage as well.


Any evaluation of the Biden administration's policy towards the Iranian regime (and towards the Palestinians) reveals a failure: the deadly Western miscalculation that "being nice" will be reciprocated. In the culture of the Middle East, that simply does not work.


Instead, one is looked on as a gullible sucker or juicy "mark," like a jolly drunk at a strip club. Alternative approaches, conversely, as exemplified in the Reagan administration's masterful execution of Operation Praying Mantis, stand as a testament to their success.


Operation Praying Mantis was a military action conducted by the US on April 18, 1988, in the Persian Gulf, in response to the mining of the U.S. Navy frigate USS Samuel B. Roberts by Iran during the Iran-Iraq War. The mining had taken place on April 14, 1988, causing damage to the frigate.


President Ronald Reagan authorized Operation Praying Mantis to retaliate against Iran for the mining and to neutralize Iran's naval capabilities in the region. The operation, carried out by the U.S. Navy, marked the largest U.S. naval engagement since World War II. The primary targets were Iranian naval units, including warships and small boats, which were considered a threat to U.S. and international shipping in the Persian Gulf.


The U.S. Navy deployed surface ships and aircraft to engage Iranian forces. The USS Enterprise aircraft carrier, along with other vessels, played a crucial role in the operation. During the engagement, U.S. forces sank or severely damaged several Iranian naval vessels, including frigates, gunboats, and speedboats.


Operation Praying Mantis aimed to demonstrate U.S. resolve in protecting its and its allies interests and maintaining freedom of navigation in the Persian Gulf. The U.S. suffered no casualties during the operation, while Iran suffered the loss of multiple naval vessels and personnel.


After the operation, there was a notable cessation in Iran's harassment of ships and tankers for as long as Reagan was in office. Operation Praying Mantis achieved its immediate objectives of retaliating against Iran for the mining incident, sending a strong message to Iran, and reducing the threat posed by Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf.


Clear and unwavering actions against rogue actors are imperative to deter disruptive behavior and send a firm message about America's commitment to ensuring stability. Why does the Biden administration persist in adhering to a strategy that has clearly proven to be unsuccessful?


The Biden administration appears terrified of delivering a strong response to the Iranian regime – a failure of nerve that will surely not be lost on America's adversaries. Biden might fear that a strong response would escalate tensions and have adverse implications for his chances of re-election on November 5, 2024.


It is important to bear in mind, however, historical lessons, such as the reluctance of European countries to provide a robust response to Hitler's actions -- a move that ultimately strengthened him and contributed to the outbreak of World War II.

 

An approach of "escalate to de-escalate" is probably the most prudent policy; it allows the US firmly to assert its stance. The strategy means that a nation, through a show of force or a strong response, temporarily escalates a situation with the goal of prompting the opposing party to de-escalate.


Former U.S. Army General Jack Keane recently noted that many possible targets are already on "the list" and suggested taking out the military installations that have been launching such attacks. Other possible responses floated include sinking Iran's spy ship currently in the Red Sea and taking out Iran's military communications systems.


If Iran itself is not made to pay a price, it will simply continue using its proxies to escalate aggression and take the hits. After all, that is why Iran has proxies in the first place.



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On Confronting the Iranian Regime - by Majid Rafizadeh for The Gatestone Institute - 20
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Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US Foreign Policy. He can be reached at Dr.Rafizadeh@Post.Harvard.Edu



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Pictured: The USS Enterprise, which played a key role in Operation Praying Mantis, is shown in the Persian Gulf on December 15, 1998. (U.S. Navy photo by Michael W. Pendergrass)


 

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