What would the Obama Administration's response have been had they succeeded?
If the plot had unfolded as planned and these Iranian operatives had blown up al-Jubeir in a restaurant in Washington, would the Obama Administration have considered retaliating with force against the Iranians? Drone strikes? Air strikes against selected Iranian targets (that perhaps happened to be linked to their nuclear program)? Coordinated action with the Saudis? With the Saudis and the Israelis? Or would the United States have protested vigorously in the U.N. and taken actions akin to those they are taking now to further isolate Iran in the international community? What if American citizens had been killed in the attack as they almost inevitably would have been? Remember Joe Biden's assertion long-ago that the President would be tested by foreign enemies. This is the kind of thing he had in mind. Except the context here is that the United States is broke and pulling out of the Middle East and Obama would certainly like to avoid being drawn back into a big conflict in the region. The Iranians, it seems were betting that the response would therefore be contained. And while I understand the rationale, I think the calculation is wrong. Dead Americans lying in the rubble of a Washington restaurant would require an immediate and forceful response. It would be a mistake for the Iranians or anyone else to underestimate the power an attack would have to galvanize U.S. public opinion in favor of strong action.
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