(This CAMERA commentary appeared on The Hill newspaper's Congress Blog Jan. 26, 2015.)
President Obama threatens to veto new Iran sanctions if passed by the House and Senate. He warns that their approval might lead to a war Congress would own.
Covering sanctions legislation sponsored by Sens. Robert Menedez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and reportedly under consideration by Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and separately by Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Cal.), news media often have failed to report that a war between the United States and Iran has been underway for 36 years. Not only that, but Iran owns it.
Connecting the dots of Iranian aggression ought to be the context of press coverage on the sanctions battle between the White House and Capitol Hill.
When revolutionaries overthrew the Shah of Iran in 1979, a group following the line of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans prisoner for 444 days. This assault trashed a fundamental international law, that of the inviolability of diplomatic missions and personnel.
What was Khomeini's line? That the United States was the world's Great Satan, Israel the Little Satan. The former was to be driven out of the Middle East, the latter destroyed. Khomeini's successor as Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Iran's current president, Hassan Rouhanioften misreported as a moderate but a loyalist of both ayatollahsmaintain that line.
In 1983, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shi'ite Party of God, organized, funded, trained and armed by Iran with Syrian assistance, blew up the U.S. embassy and U.S. Marine and French military barracks in Beirut. The attacks killed more than 300 Americans and 58 French.
In 1985, Hezbollah's hijacking of TWA flight 847 led to the torture and murder of U.S. Navy SEAL Robert Dean Stethem. His battered body was dumped on the runway at Beirut International Airport.
Covert doesn't mean unreal
Throughout much of the '80s and into the 1990s, Hezbollaha U.S.-designated terrorist organization and a key external arm of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corpskidnapped many Westerners in Lebanon. Two in particular, CIA Beirut station chief William Buckley in 1984 and Marine Lt. Col. William R. Rich Higgins in 1988, were tortured and murdered. In another Iranian-directed violation of international rules, Higgins was seized while attached to the U.N. peacekeeping force in the country.
In 1996, Iranian-affiliated terrorists blew up military housing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. service members. Ten years later, ruling that American families were entitled to $254 million in indemnification from Iran, U.S. Federal Judge Royce C. Lambert wrote, the totality of the evidence at trial . . . firmly establishes that the Khobar Towers bombing was planned, funded, and sponsored by senior leadership in the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In 2005, a car bombing murdered former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Haririsupported in and out of office by Iran's regional Sunni rival, Saudi Arabiaand 22 others. Massive Lebanese protests led Syria, an Iranian and Hezbollah ally, to end its 29-year occupation. Later, an international tribunal identified four Hezbollah members, including a senior official, as responsible for the killings. Hezbollah, a major player in Lebanese politics and whose Iranian-armed militia is stronger than the U.S.-backed Lebanese military, threatens dire consequences if the tribunal continues its work.
Four years ago, Washingtonians greeted with disbelief reports that Hezbollah, acting on behalf of Iran, had tried to subcontract with a Mexican drug cartel to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States by blowing up a popular capital restaurant while he dined. But charges announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and then-FBI Director Robert Mueller led to officials in Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The restaurant explosion reportedly was to be followed by bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington.
By such deeds the Iranian regime is known, or should be. Others such outrages committed by Hezbollah on behalf of Iran have included the 1992 destruction of the Israeli embassy and the 1994 devastation of the AMIA Jewish community headquarters in Buenos Aires, Argentina. More than 100 people died in the two bombings and hundreds more were wounded. Recently, the Argentine prosecutor whose investigation of the mass murders caused Interpol to issue warrants for senior Iranian leaders was found shot to death in so-far peculiar circumstances.
From 2003 on, Iran reportedly has assisted insurgents in Iraqi and Afghanistan with attacks against U.S. and other coalition forces, in particular with designs and materiel for improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that have killed hundreds of Western troops.
In 2011, President Obama said Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad must go. Since then Iran, directly and through Hezbollah, has sent thousands of armed men to support Assad's battered army in Syria's civil wars. Recently, a reported Israeli air strike killed senior Hezbollah and Iranian commanders on the Golan Heights near the Syrian-Israeli border where they were planning attacks against the Little Satan.
Such maneuvers highlight Iran's wars against America and Israel, waged since 1979. Tehran compiled this record of aggression without the shield of nuclear weapons. It is in this context
that news media ought to be reporting the struggle between the Obama administration and Congress over new Iran sanctions legislation. Anything less would be half the story.