Is America Back in the Fight?

OPINION
The Sun
Saturday, February 3, 2024

Is America Back in the Fight?

President Biden’s insistence that America seeks no war with Iran’s leaders is a green light for the Islamic Republic maintaining its war on us and on our allies.

BENNY AVNI
Saturday, February 3, 2024
10:43:37 am

“Welcome back to the fight”: This was Victor Laszlo’s reaction to Rick Blaine’s hopping off the fence in the pre-World War II world of “Casablanca.” It’s too early to assess whether America’s Friday night bombing of multiple targets on the Syrian-Iraqi border deserves such a welcome. Forgive the Islamic Republic’s leaders if they conclude that President Biden’s insistence that America seeks no war with them is a green light for maintaining their war on us and on our allies.

Borrowing an Iraq War-era term, the Economist described Friday’s B-1 bomber attack on 85 targets “shock and awe.” Yet are the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps awed? According to reports from Iran, one air attack a day earlier, in which a top IRGC commander, Saeed Alidadi, was killed, garnered more shock and anger at Tehran than the deaths of an estimated 40 unknown persons in the American multi-target strike.

While Israel did not acknowledge responsibility — it rarely does — its Thursday strike was likely more effective than the much-advertised and much-discussed American one. In fact, since the start of 2024, six countries conducted air attacks in Syria, including Iran, Russia, and Turkey. Significantly, the Jordanian air force joined America on Friday. Israel consistently, and quietly, targets IRGC bigwigs and arms deliveries to Lebanon from Iran.

If Syrian, and Iranians, saw the extensive American assault as just another Friday, was it significant? Since the start of his presidency, Mr. Biden attempted to sweet-talk the mullahs, so, sure, it is significant that he now realizes that perhaps diplomacy with Iran is no longer the only option on the table. A somber trip to Dover, Delaware, on Friday to receive the caskets of William Jerome Rivers, Kennedy Ladon Sanders, and Breonna Alexsondria Moffett will do such a thing.

That is especially true for a president who often signs off speeches with the line, “May God protect our troops.” Yet, as the White House’s most effective spokesman, John Kirby, put it Friday, the goal is to get attacks on our troops to stop, but “we’re not looking for a war with Iran.” That message is so ubiquitous by now that any half-wit IRGC operative knows how to slip out and empty warehouses long before the B-1 bombers hover overhead.

Indeed, the endless leaks since Sunday of where America was going to strike and to what end minimized the damage to Iran and proxies. If the president really wants to join the fight, he should concentrate on reviving his predecessor’s “maximum pressure” policies that dwindled Iranian foreign currency reserves, halted its oil sales, and killed the IRGC’s Qasem Soleimani. Only then we could be assured, as Laszlo was, that “this time our side will win.”

BENNY AVNI
Benny Avni is a columnist who has published in the New York Post, WSJOpinion, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, Israel Radio, Ha’Aretz, and others. Once New York Sun, always New York Sun.