The Agenda

Reuel Marc Gerecht on the Dependence of the Major ‘Independent’ Islamic Terrorist Groups

Back in February, Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies wrote a fascinating article for the Weekly Standard on President Obama’s approach to counterterrorism. His basic thesis is that the Obama administration is operating under fundamental misapprehensions regarding the nature of the Al Qaeda threat:

Since September 11, 2001, Washington has been enamored of the idea that the principal terrorist threat to the United States comes from “independent” actors like al Qaeda. Whereas George W. Bush at least combined this analysis with his recognition of an “Axis of Evil” (Iraq, Iran, and North Korea were highlighted for their support for terrorism as well as their appetites for weapons of mass destruction), Barack Obama has assiduously avoided underscoring state sponsorship of terrorism. His minions may occasionally say unkind things about Pakistan and the Islamic Republic, but the president has steered clear of depicting the military junta in Islamabad and the clerical regime in Tehran as terrorist threats to the United States. Even after Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is responsible for the nuclear program as well as terrorist operations, was caught trying to orchestrate a bombing run on the Saudi ambassador in a Washington, D.C., restaurant, the administration chose not to dwell on the incident—the first time, so far as we know, that any foreign state has planned a possibly mass-casualty terrorist attack in the U.S. capital. The White House quickly turned the discussion of retribution back to sanctions—the president’s preferred method of responding to Tehran on the nuclear issue, human-rights violations, and now, it seems, terrorism. 

But by doing so—by not talking loudly about the increasing evidence of a longstanding alliance between Iran and al Qaeda, by not talking more openly about the horrendous problem we have with Pakistan, and by intentionally misrepresenting the nature of al Qaeda and the alliances among Islamic militant groups—the president has turned a blind eye towards probably the most dangerous terrorist threat to the United States over the next decade: state sponsorship of “independent” Islamic terrorist groups and the likely partnering of Iran and Pakistan against the United States. 

The article concludes on a sobering note on how Pakistani foreign policy might evolve in the wake of a U.S. departure from Afghanistan. I recommend taking a look. The notion that President Obama’s foreign policy has been successful is a pervasive one, and the fact that Republicans haven’t successfully pressed the case against it has proven a significant liability. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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