Perhaps the greatest failing of the Obama administration was its inability and-or unwillingness to grasp the import of Iran’s Green Revolution and to support its aims. But that is not the only stumble with regard to the Islamic revolutionary regime, not by a long shot.

President Obama speaks during a press conference. (Michael Reynolds/European Pressphoto Agency)
President Obama speaks during a press conference. (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

Politico reports:

The U.S. made a serious mistake by not responding more assertively to an alleged Iranian plot to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States in a bomb attack on a popular Washington restaurant, just-retired CENTCOM commander James Mattis said Saturday. . . .

“When we finally caught them in the act of trying to kill Adel, we had a beleaguered attorney general, a fine man but beleaguered politically, stand up and give a legal argument that frankly I couldn’t understand,” Mattis said at the Aspen Security Forum. “We caught them in the act and yet we let them walk free.”

Without being specific, Mattis suggested Iran should have suffered some more serious consequence for being behind the alleged plot.

The flub on the Green Revolution and the refusal to respond forcefully to the assassination attempt are part of the same syndrome. The Obama administration has invested too heavily in “engagement” with rogue regimes and is too timid in confronting them. We fail to appreciate that the mullahs’ brutal internal repression reflects a mindset that is not amenable to good-faith dealings with the West.

Our conduct need not involve Iran directly for it to impact the Iranians’ calculations. Our paralysis over Syria and our refusal to address North Korea more forcefully also impress Iran that we are unserious about our warnings and red lines. Former United States ambassador John Bolton comments:

Panama’s interdiction last week of a North Korean freighter bearing cargo from Cuba should open President Obama’s eyes. The seizure’s chilling implication is
that significant trading exists among proliferators (and their powerful friends), despite mountains of sanctions resolutions, vaunted intelligence capabilities, and Western leaders who think dictators can be talked out of
long-sought military capabilities. Unfortunately, Mr. Obama is botching a real opportunity by mistakenly deferring to the United Nations.

Again, we defer from swift action in favor of entering the U.N. morass. The result is temporary impunity for rogue states. Long term, this narrows our options and erodes our credibility, leaving us ultimately with stark choices (e.g. a nuclear-armed Iran or war).

Meanwhile, Iran expertly plays U.S. diplomats, as the Associated Press reports:

 Iran’s president-elect, Hasan Rouhani, has pledged to follow a path of moderation and interaction with the outside world. Khamenei said Iran must determine the goals of its adversaries. Otherwise it will suffer, he said. “We’ve always believed and continue to believe in interaction with the world but the important point . is to understand the other party and determine its goals and tactics, because we will be tripped up if we don’t  understand them correctly,” Khamenei said in comments posted on his website late Sunday.

“The art in interaction with the world is to continue your path without the other party being able to stop you. If interaction with the world causes retreat from the path, it is a loss,” he said.

In short, they view talks as means to their end of achieving a nuclear weapons capability, a goal they must certainly be convinced more than ever is attainable with a weak U.S. administration.

Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, the mullahs have learned everything they needed to know about dealing with the United States. We have learned nothing, and it shows.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.