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How Iran Uses Terror Threats To Successfully Deter U.S. Military Action

Obama says his Syria move sent Tehran a message on nukes, but the mullahs have Washington cornered

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(Photoillustration Tablet Magazine; original photo Spencer Platt/Getty Images and Shutterstock)
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If the prospect seems absurd—mullahs and militants rubbing shoulders with bikini-clad tourists on sun-drenched beaches—it shouldn’t. The reality is the mullahs and militants are now running the beaches of Beirut, which used to be known as the Paris of the Middle East. As Levitt shows in his recently published book, Hezbollah: The Global Footprint of Lebanon’s Party of God, Iran’s long arm reaches virtually everywhere on the globe and therefore everywhere the United States has interests, including here at home.

Iran’s willingness to contemplate a mass casualty attack on one of America’s busiest airports is chilling—and it’s meant to be. A successful attack on planes, equipment, terminals, and passengers at JFK might well have done as much, or more, damage as 9/11, crippling air traffic and sapping confidence in law enforcement and policymakers. With U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time, millions of Americans would have been in an uproar, demanding a troop withdrawal in order to avoid further attacks—just as Spain did after the Madrid train bombings. In other words, American interests and U.S. policy would have been held hostage to the whims of the Islamic Republic and the ability of its agents to carry out operations on American soil that no other state in the world would dare contemplate.

“The JFK operation isn’t that well known,” explains Levitt, “because it’s a plot that didn’t happen.” Kadir was on his way to meet Rabbani and other officials when he was arrested boarding a plane in Trinidad en route to Iran via Venezuela. He and his three co-conspirators were all found guilty, with three of them, including Kadir, getting life sentences.

The other reason the JFK plot isn’t that well known is that U.S. officials are loath to discuss it, even as the prospect of such future attacks keeps them up at night. If the United States, or Israel, launches an attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities, Tehran will loosen the gates of hell and keep them open indefinitely. Which is why, contrary to Obama’s professions of concern for Israel’s security vis-a-vis Iran, what happens to Israel in the event of an American attack on Iran is hardly the main concern of American policymakers and planners. What the White House is actually worried about is that one of the many bungled plots against Americans where they live, work, and play might come to fruition.

Indeed, the most chilling aspect of both the JFK operation and the plot to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington is that they were implemented by losers. The Iranians weren’t sending in the first team—like Hezbollah, the Quds Force, and ministry of intelligence—but wannabes eager to prove their value. Given the abundance of losers and lunatics in the United States alone, Iran has a lot of expendable assets they can tap. So what if they rarely pan out? The point’s been made—and American policymakers are scared. That’s real deterrence.


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How Iran Uses Terror Threats To Successfully Deter U.S. Military Action

Obama says his Syria move sent Tehran a message on nukes, but the mullahs have Washington cornered

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