Iran must know: We will not tolerate a rogue regime obtaining weapons of mass destruction. Or, maybe we’ll tolerate it, but we won’t tolerate those weapons actually being used. More than once. Or a few times, as long as they’re small-scale attacks. But if you use them once in a large-scale attack, then you’ll be staring at the firm possibility of a U.S. attack. Unless Vladimir Putin comes up with a plan that gets us off the hook from having to follow through at the eleventh hour.
Actually, I’m probably in a small minority on the right in thinking that he’s kinda sorta serious about what he’s saying here. Obama didn’t cancel the bombing of Assad because he’s too dovish to punch a Shiite terrorist monster in the face. He did it because he knew the attack would be unpopular at home and he wanted political cover from Congress. When they wouldn’t give it to him, he chickened out. The same won’t be true of an attack on Iran. Iran looms large in the American consciousness as a potential threat for lots of reasons — decades of anti-Americanism starting with the hostage crisis; international terrorist attacks spanning years; eliminationist antagonism and Holocaust denial towards Israel; abundant media coverage of its meddling in Iraq to undermine the U.S.; and the simple fact that a key enemy building nuclear weapons is a nightmare scenario for the public, especially as Iran’s missile program becomes more sophisticated. One of the core problems of selling American voters on a Syria attack was explaining why Assad is a threat to the United States. Obama won’t have that problem with Iran, and he won’t see the same resistance on the Hill from Democrats and Republicans who have lived with the Iranian nuke kabuki for a long time.
As for O himself, the more Putin and his lackeys rub his face in his humiliation, and the more deleterious fallout there is internationally from his refusal to act against Assad, the more he’ll want to reverse the trend by following through with Iran if it comes to that. Maybe that means simply greenlighting an Israeli attack and preparing defensive measures in case Iran retaliates against the U.S., or maybe it means leading the attack himself. But if U.S. enemies take his Syria weakness as a provocation, he’ll be more likely to hit Iran, I think, than he otherwise might. Beware a wounded lame duck with a gigantic ego who’s worried about his “legacy” being eight years of ineffectual dithering on a rising, soon-to-be nuclear-armed, enemy power.