President Biden has for three years obsessively pursued a dangerous and naive strategy toward Iran: Appeasement at any cost.
Three American service members paid that cost in blood this weekend — their murders subsidized by the billions in sanctions relief Biden has provided Tehran and all but guaranteed by the president’s refusal to hold Iran accountable for nonstop attacks on US forces.
The deadly assault on a US base near the Jordanian-Syrian border was the 159th Iran-directed attack on American forces in the Middle East since Oct. 17.
Those attacks have included suicide drones, mortars, rockets and close-range ballistic missiles, leaving dozens of other Americans injured. One Christmas Day drone attack left a member of the 82nd Airborne in a coma with shrapnel stuck in his head. A US contractor died of a cardiac event during a drone attack two months prior.
But these assaults didn’t start Oct. 17. US Central Command’s chief testified to Congress last year that Iran had directed 78 attacks on American forces in Iraq and Syria from January 2021 to March 2023.
These attacks left two other contractors dead and many more Americans injured.
Tehran never once paid a price for these strikes. Nor does it today.
Where’s the red line?
To the contrary, Biden has rewarded the ayatollah to the tune of $100 billion — including massive revenue from the non-enforcement of US oil sanctions over three years, a $6 billion ransom payment and a $10 billion sanctions waiver renewed in November.
When Iran attacks US forces, Biden typically turns the other cheek and opens another financial spigot. When he responds militarily, he limits US strikes to Arab-militia infrastructure instead of taking Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps commanders off the battlefield and inflicting higher costs on Tehran.
The mullahs in Tehran are more than happy to fight America to the last Arab — and the White House knows it.
Biden’s ideological commitment to appeasing Tehran has incentivized these nonstop attacks. His appeasement policy has provided the financial incentive for violence.
His crippling fear of escalation has guaranteed escalation on all fronts — from the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre to Hezbollah missiles raining on northern Israel to Houthi strikes in the Red Sea to Iran’s accelerating production of high-enriched uranium to the attacks on American troops.
When the IRGC directed similar attacks on US forces in Iraq in late 2019, killing an American contractor, former President Donald Trump responded by taking out IRGC Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani.
It was an escalation Tehran didn’t expect and struck fear into the mullahs that more American military might could be on the way.
Indeed, Iran did not escalate its nuclear activities throughout 2020 — waiting instead to test a new president the following year.
Biden has since eviscerated multiple perceived red lines for American military action against Iran. Killing American contractors is no longer a red line.
Attacking US Navy destroyers and attempting to shut down strategic waterways is no longer a red line. Producing near-weapons-grade uranium is no longer a red line.
How many must die?
Tehran must wonder: Is killing American soldiers a red line? The president is now on the clock to deliver an answer. Biden needs his own Soleimani moment.
Another strike against an Arab militia in Iraq or Syria will invite more escalation — and more American deaths.
The spectrum of options should begin with killing senior IRGC commanders.
Much ink has been spilled for three years, including on these opinion pages, pleading with President Biden to abandon his fantasy of a nuclear agreement with a regime that pledges “Death to America, Death to Israel” — warning him of the dire consequences awaiting his policy decisions.
How many more Americans must die before the commander in chief stops appeasing the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism?
Richard Goldberg, a senior adviser at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a former National Security Council official and senior US Senate aide.