The steps the U.S. government takes next are crucial.
After recovering from the shock of the foiled Iranian terror plot, the real questions emerge:
(1) How prepared are we for future attacks?
(2) How likely is it that more attacks will be launched?
And most importantly:
(3) How will the U.S. now respond?
The plot clearly demonstrates the Iranian regime’s disposition toward the United States. Had the Iranians been successful in their planned executions, it would have been a large-scale terror attack on U.S. soil. They might not have succeeded this time, but now we must worry about their next plan -- and whether it will be carried out by Iranians or by copycat terrorists.
If the Iranian regime’s sole goal was to knock out the Saudi ambassador, Adel Al-Jubeir, they could have done so in an easier place with less security, vigilance and national intelligence. They could have followed him to an obscure venue. Yet they chose to make a point. They chose to carry out the attack on U.S. soil, to bomb the Israeli Embassy and to kill some American citizens while they were at it.
Even if the U.S. calls this an act of war, the American government cannot respond as such. In the case of Iran, the U.S. still maintains that “all options” are on the table, which acknowledges the option of a military attack. But it would help us to focus more on the other options, namely, non-militaristic aggression, even though many believe sanctions have not been effective in combating the Iranian government. There is evidence to prove that sanctions have in fact choked off the regime in various ways. However, in order to truly benefit from sanctions, the U.S. would have to better enforce them, apply them more strategically in areas such as banking and travel and to freeze assets.
The U.S. could also employ the help of other nations who have ducked out of the responsibility of punishing this global enemy. Lastly, and most importantly, the U.S. should not forget the easiest and most powerful tool in combating the Iranian regime: its 70 million disenchanted people. While the Mullahs' regime in Tehran may have deep support, both financially and through an extensive network of clergy and Revolutionary Guardsmen, the people of Iran and their desire to break free from this tyrannical regime is far more widespread across a large and vibrant population.
Manssor Arbabsiar, one of the two men charged in the "international murder-for-hire scheme," was a man who lived in Texas for decades. He sold used cars and was part of a community. Further investigations will have to look closely at Iran's tentacles working in the U.S. Currently, there are hundreds of known former IRGC generals and officers living in this country with green cards and citizenship status, in addition to thousands of their close relatives, many of whom send their children to attend this country’s best universities. They are the eyes and ears of the Iranian government and in this case the enabler of a convoluted terror plot. The question then arises: Why and how does the U.S. allow these individuals to enter and live in this country when it is well known that the average person currently has trouble getting even a tourist’s visa to come visit family here in the States?
A more recent entanglement that was brought to light is Iran's presence in South and Central America and more frighteningly, its involvement with some of the world’s most dangerous drug cartels. An anonymous source has explained that there is a huge network of Iranian intelligence and IRGC forces in Mexico close to the border with the U.S. The job of these networks is to gather intelligence, smuggle agents into the U.S., launder money for the cartels, and even bribe Mexican politicians to affect elections in Mexico. Aside from the terror cells that we now know exist, we must take into consideration the military implications of having the IRGC present on the U.S./Mexico border.
We are in a situation in which this attempted terror attack can be seen as an act of war. We have tried the path of negotiation with Iran’s government, but that has been rejected numerous times. Over time and by remaining inactive, we have become soft and irrelevant in the eyes of the Iranian regime, which is carrying on with its nuclear program and cracking down on protesters who dare voice their hunger for freedom. We waited and let them corner us, and we allowed them to take the first shot. Remaining idle at this point would set us back farther and will allow Iran to boldly continue with its nuclear and terrorist ambitions. What the U.S. does right now in retaliation will be crucial in defining the ties between Iran and the U.S.