Political operatives wonder how the only foreign-policy presidential debate of 2012 will deal with Saturday’s New York Times report that the Obama administration has agreed “in principle” to direct nuclear talks with Iran after the election. Another Iran story, however, also deserves attention on tonight’s debate stage.
Either Mitt Romney or moderator Bob Schieffer could launch an important dialogue by asking: How, if at all, has the Obama administration responded to Iran’s having launched one of the most brazen terror plots in history—to explode a bomb inside a Washington, D.C., restaurant to kill the Saudi ambassador and everyone else nearby?
But despite the high-profile press conferences that accompanied last year’s announcement, the public record suggests that the Obama administration has done nothing to penalize the Iranian government for this terrorist outrage beyond what it was doing anyway to protest Iran’s nuclear-weapons plans. Iranian officials have paid no price whatever in the 12 months since the indictments—not militarily, diplomatically or even with clear words about the consequences of plotting to blow up a public space in America’s capital city.
President Obama may claim that he has responded in secret. But if so, has his administration briefed relevant congressional committees behind closed doors? If not, have those committees requested such briefings?
The Iranian plot almost never factors into administration officials’ public statements about the general threat posed by Iran, its nuclear program and its sponsorship of international terrorism. Yet Tehran’s willingness to dispatch agents of its Revolutionary Guard to attack Washington speaks directly to the regime’s ambitions, willingness to take risks and susceptibility to sanctions. This is relevant to whether America can rely safely on the hope that it could contain a nuclear Iran should it come to that.