Israel made it clear on Monday that Iran will pay a price if it escalates the Gaza crisis through its Hezbollah proxy in the north. The Biden administration must send the same message.
Iran has become increasingly belligerent in recent days, warning of a “huge earthquake” if Israel doesn’t cease its military response to the vicious Hamas terror attacks. But if a de-escalation is the goal, perhaps Iran could start by cutting off its financial support to radical militants while calling off Hezbollah and recognizing Israeli’s right to exist and defend itself.
Instead, continued Iranian provocations have led to concerns that the nation could use Israel’s Gaza response as a precursor to open another front in the war against the Jewish state.
“We can’t rule out that Iran would choose to get directly engaged some way,” Jake Sullivan, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” last Sunday. “We have to prepare for every possible contingency.”
That must include making it abundantly clear to the mullahs that the United States will extract a price for Iranian efforts to intensify the conflict. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did precisely that on Monday, warning “Don’t test us” during a speech at an Israeli parliamentary session that was interrupted by rocket fire in Jerusalem.
Given the region’s history, Iran and others in the Middle East know Netanyahu should be taken seriously. But what about the United States and the Biden White House?
Sullivan said Sunday that the administration has used diplomatic back channels to communicate a stern message to Iran. The president has also sent two aircraft carriers to the region as a sign of solidarity with Israel.
“Moving the two carriers into the region sends a very strong signal,” Gen. Frank McKenzie, the retired commander of the U.S. Central Command, said. “There is ample historical evidence that Iran respects the flow of combat forces into the theater. It does affect their decision calculus. And as Iran’s decision calculus is affected, so is Lebanese Hezbollah’s calculus affected.”
Whether that’s true in this case remains to be seen. Either way, as The Wall Street Journal noted Monday, “The Ayatollahs in Tehran need to understand that more than their terrorist proxies are at risk. They need to know that their nuclear sites and oil fields are also on the target list.”
American policy toward Iran over the past decade has been a hallmark of mixed signals and even appeasement. But there must be no doubt that the United States will do what it takes to subdue any Iranian efforts to provoke a wider conflict.
Las Vegas Review-Journal/Tribune News Service
Editorial cartoon by Steve Kelley (Creators Syndicate)