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EDITORIAL: American hesitancy only emboldens Iran

Eight months ago — before the barbaric Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack on Israel — former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton warned that the Biden administration’s Iran policy was “ineffective” and foreboded “strategic failure.” Iran, he wrote, “is steadily eviscerating the political and economic constraints the U.S. has marshaled against it” and we “now face ... instability in the region.”

His words fell on deaf ears at the White House. And here we are.

On Sunday, three American soldiers were killed and more than 40 injured during a drone attack in Jordan. The Biden administration blamed “an Iran-backed militia in Iraq,” The New York Times reports. It’s the latest — and deadliest — of scores of militia attacks against American forces in the region since Israel’s defensive war began four months ago.

Meanwhile, Houthi rebels continue to threaten shipping lanes in the Red Sea and this week warned of additional attacks on U.S. and British naval forces in the region.

All of these attacks on American targets, along with the Hamas massacre, have been carried out by groups financed and trained by Iran and it’s “axis of resistance.” Yet President Joe Biden and his foreign policy advisers, as Mr. Bolton so presciently noted, have been more preoccupied with appeasing the regime than taking the strong stands necessary to confront the problem.

The consequences have now turned deadly.

Mr. Biden keeps repeating that he doesn’t want a “wider war in the Middle East.” Nobody does, of course. But at some point the United States must defend its interests. The situation has already escalated when ragtag militias feel safe taking shots at American military targets and threaten world commerce as a means of creating disruption.

“The Iranians see the limited nature of U.S. military operations and incessant statements about not wanting escalation as nothing but American weakness,” Steven A. Cook, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote for The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Biden said Wednesday that he had settled on a response to the American deaths but declined to give further details. A good place to start would be to strike weapon suppliers aiding the militia groups while more aggressively limiting the capability of the Houthis to disrupt maritime traffic. A more assertive policy would also send a message to America’s allies in the area “that it is willing to take decisive action to ensure regional stability,” Mr. Cook notes.

Robert Gates, secretary of defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, famously argued in his 2014 memoir that Mr. Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” So far, this president has done little to prove him wrong.

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