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Iran Committed an Act of War - Will Obama Respond in Kind?

The thwarting of an Iranian plot raises the issue how far will the US go in response? Hard to complain, after Israel's cave-in.
By Amiel Ungar
First Publish: 10/12/2011, 1:37 PM

It was a clear moment of satisfaction for US Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder has in the past been accused of weakness and ineffectiveness in the fight against Islamic terror, but now he could announce the foiling of an Iranian plot to assassinate foreign diplomats in Washington.

The news that the Iranians had tried to work through a Mexican drug cartel only confirms the testimony before congressional committees that Iran is active in Latin America and uses the drug trade to facilitate and fund terrorism.

The United States is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions” and would take “further action” against Iran, Holder said.

“We’re going to work with allies and partners to send Iran a message: we don’t tolerate the targeting of foreign diplomats on our soil,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

This talk is good, but the question that remains is whether the Obama administration is prepared to walk the walk. Iran has already been accused by the US military of helping insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan kill American soldiers including training and supplying the explosive charges.

This was to be an attack on American soil and a restaurant bombing that would have resulted in the loss of many lives, according to FBI director Robert Mueller.

However, the administration mentions using allies and partners and this appears to rule out a unilateral American action against Iran in favor of multilateralism.

Another curious element in the announcement is to describe the principals in the affair, who are affiliated with the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, as a faction within the Iranian government. That is the equivalent of calling the Conservative party in Britain a faction of the British government because the British government coalition is comprised of 2 parties.

The Revolutionary Guard Corps is currently the backbone of the Iranian regime and controls a major share of the economy.

By imputing the plot to a faction, the administration seemingly absolves the other factions in the Iranian government. This allows the United States an element of room to avoid a decisive response.

We can at best expect targeted economic sanctions against senior members of the Revolutionary guards and their Quds force. The departments mentioned as organizing the response were State and the Treasury rather than the Defense Department. 

If Russia, China and India don't go along, the sanctions will not be effective.

It was ironic that news of the terrorist plot was revealed by Attorney General Holder at around the time that Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu was announcing the deal with Hamas in which terrorists kingpins will go free in order to ransom Gilad Shalit.

It is difficult to criticize American failings in the fight against terrorism following the announcement of a massive Israeli cave-in.