Oct 30, 2023
Marco Rubio: Biden's Weakness on Iran Endangers American Troops | Opinion
By Marco Rubio
Republican senator, Florida
War is hell. It is also often unpredictable. But one of the most predictable outcomes of Hamas's genocidal assault on Israeli civilians was an increase in attacks on U.S. personnel by Iranian-backed terrorist groups. In fact, I warned that these attacks would happen unless President Joe Biden made clear he would hold Iran responsible for any violence against Americans in the region committed by Shia proxies.
Instead of delivering that message, President Biden downplayed the role of Iran's fanatical regime in supporting and training Hamas. Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and his thugs took that as a sign their pawns could attack U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria with impunity. In just one week, Shia militia groups attacked our personnel at least 19 times, leaving more than 20 wounded.
As Ronald Reagan noted, "War comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, but when they are weak. It is then that tyrants are tempted."
The events of the last two weeks make that painfully evident. I'm glad for the Biden Administration's recent admission that Iran is "actively facilitating these attacks," and I'm glad for the Pentagon's statement that "we will ultimately hold Iran responsible." But these came two weeks late.
Moreover, a few statements cannot make up for three years of projecting weakness.
One of the first things President Biden did in the Oval Office was restart nuclear negotiations with Iran. He even put a known Iran sympathizer, Robert Malley, in charge of them. Meanwhile, in nearby Afghanistan, he presided over one of the most chaotic and shameful withdrawals in American military history.
And by recently promising to unfreeze $6 billion in Iranian funds, President Biden appeared to reward the Iranian regime for holding American citizens captive.
How could this not embolden the Ayatollah, whose sycophants chant "Death to America!" and "Death to Israel!" every Friday during prayers?
Unfortunately, these are not isolated incidents. Shortly before Putin invaded Ukraine, the president suggested a "minor incursion" into Ukraine might not merit an international response. Biden also sends mixed messages to Beijing, vacillating between a feeble "de-risking" approach and "tough on China" press releases while the Chinese Communist Party becomes more aggressive toward our allies in the region.
Finally, there is the awful reality that our Commander-in-Chief projects weakness on a personal level. No good will come from mocking President Biden at a time of international crises, but we must not fail to recognize that foreign adversaries see his gaffes, mistakes, and frailty—and come away believing America cannot respond to threats.
Correcting all these failures would be impossible. The administration can't change the past, nor can it change its leader's age. But it can and should take responsibility for the present and the near-term future.
On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will testify before the Senate Committee on Appropriations to request more money for the growing number of conflicts facing the world. The administration's priorities, strategies, and objectives deserve tremendous scrutiny as we look forward. But the administration will also have to answer questions about its actions—and inactions—over the past three weeks.
For example, what did the Biden Administration tell Iran in the wake of October 7? What did we do, or not do, to deter Iranian-backed attacks in the region? What are we doing to protect our troops now? What are we doing to deter further escalation in the region and beyond?
It's a good opportunity to set the record straight.
We must be clear to the American people—and to our service members—about the dangers they face. Similarly, we must be crystal clear to our adversaries that while we do not seek war, there will be grave and swift consequences for taking up arms against us.
There are too many lives at stake—American, Iranian, Israeli, Palestinian, and more—to do otherwise.
Marco Rubio, a Republican, is the senior U.S. senator from Florida.