Many words describe President Biden’s Iran policy. “Craven,” “weak,” “obsequious” and “embarrassing,” among others, come readily to mind.
But there are no words to describe adequately the recent White House decision, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, to warn Tehran about a possible terrorist attack.
Sunday’s serious American casualties in Jordan, at the hands of an Iran-backed militia, tragically underscore Biden’s folly.
Anonymous administration sources justified sharing intelligence with a US enemy by citing a “duty to warn” policy applicable to both citizens and noncitizens.
Although the Journal story mentions “exceptions” to this policy, its administration sources were less than candid.
I have experienced duty-to-warn personally.
Starting in 2020, the FBI, pursuant to the policy, has warned me of Iran’s efforts to assassinate me and other current and former American officials.
I’m sure Tehran is pleased to know President Biden nonetheless still has its best interests at heart.
The origins of duty-to-warn lie in the Libyan-ordered 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Information about terrorist threats had earlier been sent to US embassies but without comparable warning to the general public.
Combined with reports of other preferential treatment for government officials, the post-Lockerbie outcry produced federal legislation creating a “no double standard” policy.
Broadly stated, the State Department shares threat-related information to both official and non-official Americans, which is especially important for our citizens living or traveling abroad.
US law-enforcement and intelligence agencies were contemporaneously considering how to deal with information regarding American citizens facing specific terrorist threats.
The “duty to warn” evolved over decades, adjusting the scope and extent of threats considered and the categories of people to be warned.
Elements of the policy remain classified, but Intelligence Community Directive 191, largely unclassified, is likely the authority the anonymous administration sources cited.
Claiming Biden officials had no choice but to disclose threat intelligence to Iran is flatly wrong.
It is nearly inconceivable US policymakers could believe it wise to disclose sensitive material to an enemy state currently taking numerous hostile steps against Americans.
The Journal gave only one example of sharing intelligence with an adversary: in December 2019 when Donald Trump provided information to Vladimir Putin, hardly an inspiring precedent.
ICD 191 is limited in significant respects.
It is merely a policy statement, not a legislative requirement, and therefore subject to adaptation as circumstances require.
Indeed, it already provides two justifications for not disclosing threat information that emphatically apply to Iran.
The terrorists’ target here was memorial services for Qassem Soleimani, former head of Iran’s Quds Force, sent to his Maker courtesy of the United States in January 2020.
These memorials were Iranian government events, attended by large numbers of government officials, especially from the Quds Force, the Revolutionary Guards (of which the force is a component) and others.
ICD 191 authorizes waiving disclosure where the target is at risk because of its “participation in an insurgency, insurrection or other armed conflict” or where there is reason to believe the target “is a terrorist, a direct supporter of terrorists, an assassin” or commits other criminal activity.
These exemptions define attendees at the Soleimani memorial services to a T.
The White House decision to proceed anyway is an entirely unforced error.
It comes even while the administration is treating US military and civilian personnel in Syria and Iraq as little more than tethered goats, inviting targets for Iran-backed-militia attacks.
With the Houthis’ efforts to strike American naval vessels in the Red Sea, these attacks are now unambiguous, notwithstanding US and UK retaliation against the Yemeni terrorist group for firing on commercial ships.
And, as noted, Iran is directing an active assassination campaign against current and former government officials and private citizens like Masih Alinejad and Salman Rushdie.
Iran’s reaction to receiving intelligence about a possible terrorist attack is unknown, but Tehran obviously failed to defend against the threat, which manifested itself Jan. 3.
Thus, not only was Biden’s tip to the mullahs misguided, it failed, thereby proving it was a mistake to begin with.
There is no doubt ICD 191’s current text, written during the Obama years, is inadequate and needs strengthening, especially in light of Biden’s palpable misjudgment.
Duty-to-warn should not apply, for example, if the persons or state being targeted are themselves trying to murder US citizens.
Duty-to-warn should not apply to any person or state arming, training or financing terrorist groups threatening or attacking American personnel overseas.
This article was first published in The New York Post on January 28, 2024. Click here to read the original article.