When I worked for George W Bush, says William McGurn in The Wall Street Journal, the president used to remind us that “al Qaeda was at war with America long before we were at war with them”. Today, the same is true of Iran. The Islamic republic gets away with it by delegating the violence to its proxies. The Pentagon reckons some 603 American soldiers died on Iranian orders during the Iraq war. And Tehran’s lackeys in Hamas have already killed 30 Americans in the latest conflict. If any US hostages are executed, Israel’s war will fast become America’s.
The problem for Joe Biden is that he has been extremely weak on Iran. He ended Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against the Iranian economy, easing sanctions and freeing up billions of dollars for Tehran. And to what end? There will never be peace while Iran is allowed to get away with murder. “The good news is that much of the Arab world agrees.” Although their populations can be “easily whipped up for an anti-Israel rally”, Arab leaders “don’t fear Israel the way they fear Iran”. They are all too aware of the Iranian proxies operating in their own capitals, which is probably why not one of them has withdrawn from the Abraham Accords with Israel over Gaza. Biden is right to worry about escalating the conflict. But escalation is a certainty if that fear is read as weakness. He needs to heed the age-old lesson of the Middle East: “When people say they want to kill you, believe them.”