Teams from the United States and other Western countries are sitting in Vienna alongside Iran. Ostensibly, these bright and dedicated minds are there negotiating on how to resurrect some version, any version, of the infamous Nuke Deal of 2015.
In essence, they are involved in a diplomatic version of twiddling your thumbs. It simply makes no sense.
They sit around. They talk about sitting around. They plan more talks.
And while they do all that “diplomatic stuff,” Iranian leadership is busy doing its own stuff. Their very nefarious stuff.
The Western world sits politely in a room with Iranian diplomats while Iran is plotting and activating assassins in the United States and dictating missions. Those missions are to perpetrate murders. And on their list, among others, is Salman Rushdie, John Bolton, Mike Pompeo.
The incongruity is baffling. The irony is fearsome.
Diplomacy and foreign relations work on many levels. I know that. I know that when dealing with international affairs the seesaw is never stable. Sometimes you are up and just as often, you are down. And often, one hand does not know what the other is doing.
But to proceed with high level nuke talks while Iran is actively attempting to murder former U.S. leaders, to kill citizens with international reputations, is simply sending the wrong message to Iran. And by extension, to all enemies of the West.
The attack on Salman Rushdie. Author, thinker, public figure, was perpetrated by Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old resident of Fairview, New Jersey. Think about that.
There is no doubt in my mind that Matar was acting as a result of the “fatwah,” the Islamic religious edict, the death sentence, that was pronounced in 1989 by the Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran. The fatwah was pronounced shortly after Rushdie had published his wildly popular book The Satanic Verses.
Rushdie’s crime was writing a book, with a brilliant title, about what he determined to be the foibles of Islam.
No matter that Matar was born 10 years after the fatwah. That fatwah is alive and well and still very valid in the minds of followers of the Ayatollah.
And so, on a Friday morning, Salman Rushdie, the Indian-born novelist who spent years in hiding after Iran urged Muslims to kill him because of his writing, was stabbed in the face, neck and torso during a lecture he was delivering in New York State. He was airlifted to a hospital, was placed on a ventilator and was said to be then in serious, thankfully now stable, condition.
We do not yet know much about the assassin. The name on his driver’s license was not his own, it was an alias. It was a contrived named — Hassan Mughniyah. For those in the know it was obvious. He borrowed the name Hassan from the leader of Hezbollah, from Sheik Hassan Nasrallah.
Had he been able to ask, I am sure Nasrallah would have given him not only permission, but also a blessing.
Mughniyah is the last name of Imad Mughniyah, the man who was a leader of military operations and strategy for Hezbollah. The original Mughniyah was killed in a joint CIA- Mossad operation conducted in Damascus in 2008.
Mugniyah was walking from a party at the Iranian ambassador’s home. As he walked by a Mitsubishi Pajero (which looks like a jeep) a bomb was remotely activated killing him and destroying the car.
The attack was so precise that there was almost no other damage. The spare tire of the Mitsubishi had been replaced with explosives.
Iran sponsors Hezbollah. And Iran has sworn revenge for the death of Mugniyah and for the deaths of other targets eliminated by the United States.
High on that list is the 2020 hit on Qassam Suleimani, head of Iran’s al Quds Force. The al Quds Force is responsible for attacks outside of Iran.
The attack on Rushdie came just days after Shahram Poursafi, aka Mehdi Rezavi, was arrested and indicted for attempting to pay a hit team $300,000 to assassinate John Bolton, the National Security adviser of former President Donald Trump.
The United States needs to take action. The U.S. must teach Iran a serious lesson. Enough twiddling thumbs and permitting Iran to act with impunity.
Iran is commissioning assassins and attacks on American citizens and there must be a price to pay. The fact that Iran has not successfully completed all these plans is not relevant.
Thankfully, Salman Rushdie will survive and the plot against Bolton and earlier plots against Pompeo were foiled.
As far as Iran is concerned, they have not been punished for these egregious acts on U.S. soil. In fact, it appears that they have been rewarded.
The talks go on in Vienna as if nothing happened — as if nothing is happening. No punishment. Not even a token slap on the wrist.
Yes, there were U.S. Justice Department and State Department announcements, but nothing that made much of an impression in the news cycle.
The first step is for the United States to cut off negotiations with Iran.
Iran needs to be shown strict and firm U.S. positions. The United States needs to hold these acts over Iran’s head and put Iran back in its place for being so aggressive.
And the United States must strike at a sensitive Iranian target. And strike while the iron is hot.
Analysts who claim Iran is unpredictable and warn of the dangers of Iranian responses are being myopic. Iran follows a plan. Iranian responses to various scenarios are predictable.
The longer the time that elapses between an event and the response it evokes, the less effective the message. Every parent and educator knows that. Our diplomats should know that, too.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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