What happens when Iran kills American soldiers?
July 8th, 2011
12:50 PM ET

What happens when Iran kills American soldiers?

Editor's Note: Eliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, from which this piece is reprinted. You can read Abrams' blog Pressure Points here.

By Elliot Abrams

There must be very few times in American history when a foreign government is accused of killing American troops, and absolutely nothing is done about it.

Every school kid used to learn lines like “Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead,” or “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute.”  The War of 1812 was fought in large part due to the “impressment” of American sailors by the British, a similar example of denial of freedom that fell far short of actually killing American sailors.

So what are we to make of the following statements by America’s senior military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen?  Reuters reports that at a luncheon with journalists, Mullen said this:

“Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shia groups which are killing our troops. And there’s no reason … for me to believe that they’re going to stop that as our numbers come down….There’s no question they want to influence, and particularly in the south,” Mullen said. “They are shipping high-tech weapons in there … which are killing our people and … the forensics prove that.”

Read: Lebanon's non-government

Mullen made these comments in the context of discussing the American troop presence in Iraq, and went on to say that  any agreement to keep U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the end of the year “has to be done in conjunction with control of Iran in that regard.”  So Iran’s killing of American troops is a problem because it complicates leaving some forces in Iraq?

What is one to make of it when our senior commander does not seem outraged by this Iranian conduct and does not demand that we put a stop to it?  Our forces are not killing Iranians, but Iran has been killing Americans–in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also through involvement in terrorist attacks such as the Khobar Towers bombing in 1996–for decades, and it has paid no price.  This is the probable explanation why continuing American promises, or threats if you like, that “it is unacceptable for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons” don’t appear to rattle Tehran.  What credibility can we possibly have when they know we know that Iran has been killing American soldiers year after year without any significant American response.

It isn’t just Iran, either: the Assad regime in Syria became the transit point for every jihadi wanting to travel to Iraq to kill Americans (and large numbers of Iraqis).  From all around the globe they came–Pakistan, Libya, Saudi Arabia, you name it–to Damascus International Airport, thence to be shepherded into Iraq with the full cooperation and coordination of the Government of Syria.  The American military response: none. This was especially galling, for whatever dangers may have existed in threatening Iran and then having to carry through on those threats if Iran did not cease acting to kill American soldiers, they were absent in the case of a weak country like Syria.  A few object lessons would have persuaded the Assad regime to desist from its actions.

Read: Elliot Abrams' blog, Pressure Points.

Soon we will have a new Secretary of Defense and a new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and one can only hope that we will also have a new policy: that neither Iran nor any other government can kill Americans with impunity.  The least we owe servicemen and women who risk their lives for our country is the certainty that when we know a foreign government is trying to kill them, we will act to stop it.  If we adopted such a policy, we would never again have to hear a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs reveal such a set of facts and suggest as an American response……well, nothing.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Elliot Abrams. For more, visit his blog Pressure Points.

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Topics: Iran • United States

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soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. Robert Crites

    If you are trying to justify going to war with Iran because they support Iraqi militants or Hamas or Syria, forget it. Russia makes Kalashnikov guns that are used against America. American companies make arms that are used against us. If we just stick to fighting the people who hold the weapons and point them at our people and pull the trigger, we will have enough to do.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Reply
    • jingooz

      There are 10 comments for this article 2 of them fanatic islamists and 4 of them leftist communists and the rest probably working for a company which is doing business with the iranians, but any how all of them are on some kind of a mission for some one else

      July 8, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Reply
      • Onesmallvoice

        Here goes another person of obvious limitations like this joker above. Please, we already know how widespread ignorance is!!!

        July 8, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
  2. bobalu

    Well the fact is that the US does not have the man-power to take on 2 additional enemy states right now. It is also not politically feasable. I suppose similar reasons stopped the Russians from retaliating against Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the USA for arming the Afghan Mujahadeen in the 1980s.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:24 pm | Reply
  3. Conrad Schott IV

    Please spare us further Abrams drivel. Thank you.

    July 8, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Reply
  4. Amrullah Yousafzai in Mingora,Swat, Pakiland

    What happens when Americans kill 300 innocent Iranians by shooting down a civilian plane as they did with flight 655?

    July 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Reply
    • Shahin

      Don't bother mate, they are untouchable. Americans kill everyone they like, invade any country they like, controll every government they like and ignore every UN decision they like. Why? Because they've got the biggest stick.
      We all know it, but hey what can we do besides watching how they kill and destroy while pointing fingers at some goat herders in the mountains?
      Empires rise and fall and the US is no exception. We'll see where their allies will be when their time comes...

      July 8, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Reply
      • Onesmallvoice

        Despite our arrogance and self righteousness, we Americans are no better than anybody else. We just have the most resources and greed. One example, back on Feb.13,1991, two American pilots flew over Baghdad, Iraq and dropped one or two bombs on the Amriya air raid shelter and slaughtered upward of 414 civilians in cold blood and neither pilot has ever been held accountable for that atrocity. I still remember seeing one man mourning his horrific loss to this day!!!

        July 8, 2011 at 8:21 pm |
      • ILLIAS

        wELL SAID MATE

        July 9, 2011 at 8:51 am |
    • Onesmallvoice

      Nothing Amrullah, sadly enough. The arrogant and self righteous Americans can get away with virtually anything they want to and that makes me sick to my stomach!!!

      July 8, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Reply
      • patriot

        Its the belief that some people's blood are worth more than that of others that is causing all this suffering.

        July 9, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  5. Ali Mostofi

    First if all it is not "Iran" killing American. It is the "Hezbollahis" as we cal them in Persian. These Hezbollahis kill Iranians.

    July 8, 2011 at 4:18 pm | Reply
    • Shahin

      Don't expect them to know the difference. To them we're all the same. Don't know whether that's our own fault or their intelligence...

      July 8, 2011 at 7:54 pm | Reply
    • Nomad

      Iranian government is doing its part as it did with killing of its own. As an Iranian, I remember when the basij men in Shiraz when raiding stores spoke Arabic and not Persian. These are the same guys who are killing on behalf of mullahs in other countries. War against Iran will just further unite the Persians, which is what the Mullahs need right now... I believe they are doing this dirty work on purpose, they want to be proven right by US attacking Iran and them on Friday prayers saying see I told you so, America is the devil they are attacking us for no reason. Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't! The only solution is a democratic Iran from inside out... that won't happen either because us Persians unlike the Syrians don't like being shot.

      July 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Reply
  6. hass

    This is yet more propaganda. We've heard for so long about Iran providing IEDs to Iraq ... nevermind that IED factories were found in Iraq.

    July 8, 2011 at 5:26 pm | Reply
  7. j. von hettlingen

    "What credibility can we possibly have when they know we know that Iran has been killing American soldiers year after year without any significant American response."
    My question to you, Mr. Abrams is, what capabilities can you possibly have to retaliate? It's frustrating, but what can you do? For the moment – in light of the situation in the Arab World,- its a wishful thinking that the Ameriicans could strike back with impunity.
    Let's hope that a new Iran would emerge one day, that would put an end to this Shia/Sunni divide.

    July 8, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Reply
  8. Quinterius

    It is a total waste of time even to attempt to read anything by one of the most rabid neo-cons, Elliot Abrams, on the subject of the Middle East. CNN loses credibility by publishing an article by one of the original warmongers of the Bush era.

    July 8, 2011 at 6:35 pm | Reply
    • j. von hettlingen

      Having served Ronald Reagan and Bush 2, what do not expect?

      July 9, 2011 at 9:14 am | Reply
      • j. von hettlingen

        @Please read, what do YOU expect!

        July 11, 2011 at 7:47 am |
  9. AA

    Just more mindless neocon spoon-feeding to the ignorant masses to prepare them for the possibility of a new war... I thought CNN was better than this, you are slowly becoming like Fox

    July 8, 2011 at 7:08 pm | Reply
  10. Jeff

    It is ironic that CNN chose to illustrate this article with a photo of a casket carrying the body of a dead US serviceman who was the victim of a war launched by the US on Israel'ls behalf and orchestrated by Abrams' neocon buddies, Perle, Feith, Libby, and Wolfowitz, or "the JINSA crowd," as Colin Powell ruefully reflected, none of whom ever served a day in the US military. And now the same group has been trying to take out another of Israel's allies, no matter what the cost in American or Iranian lies. It is a shame to see this kind of war propaganda on the CNN blog.

    July 8, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Reply
  11. patriot

    And what happens when NATO kills Libyan soldiers?

    July 9, 2011 at 9:06 am | Reply
  12. Carl

    What happens when the US arms terroirsts plotting against Iranian citizens? Jundallah?

    Neocons have a total fixation on Israel, and therefore Iran. Let's not keep letting the CFR push their bankrupt ideology, especially with these 100% salacious non-story "though experiments".

    If US servicepeople are killed in the US, by all means hunt these people down. If they are killed by Hezbollah in Iraq, that's a completely different story.

    July 9, 2011 at 10:58 am | Reply
  13. Esther Haman

    As some of you may have noticed, if you keep up with the news, this non stop propaganda against Iran and the false information campaign started right after BEBE YAHOO of the Zionist entity came over here and spoke in our congress. He ordered our representatives and Senators to take the heat off of him and stop pressuring him to make peace with the Palestinians and instead to put Iran and her nuclear program back on the front page. But off-course these Zionist stooges in DC had no other choice but to abide with that demand and now you see the same old propaganda and non sense on Iran is back in the news,

    The biggest threat in our country today is the infiltration of the Zionist in our government. Their total control of our News Organizations controls our perception of the events in the ME and public opinion in our country. No journalist has the right or the courage to say anything about the Zionist entity or criticize their atrocities such as the "Goldstone" report by the UN, or killing a dozen unarmed peace activist on the international waters, their concentration camps in the Gaza Strip etc etc etc.

    They may want to blame Iran for everything that goes on in the ME or the Islamic world and start a new war against Muslims in the ME, but Iran has not attacked anyone and is protecting its own interests within her boarders. we are the one at their door step with over 3 carrier task force threatening to change their government as we did in 1953 to set up another puppet government and create another submissive group of people to do our dirty work for us

    Get real.

    July 9, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Reply
  14. Americans R Idiots The only smart people in america ...are foreigners lmfao

    EVERYONE REMEMBER FLIGHT 655 LIKE AMERICA REMEMBERED 9/11

    July 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Reply
    • Onesmallvoice

      And I'll always remember Feb.13,1991 when these two dispicable American pilots flew over Baghdad about 4:40am Iraqi time and dropped one or two bombs on that air raid shelter, slaughtering over 414 innocent civilians who only wanted to live past the first Gulf War. I'll always remember also the man who mourned his horrific losses which at that time, most Americans considered much ado about nothing much to my disgust!!!

      July 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Reply
      • Chicago Nick

        You would remember that. Freaking mutt.

        July 10, 2011 at 8:08 am |
  15. Jef

    You made this spot ie war, you should clear it up

    July 10, 2011 at 5:45 am | Reply
  16. Chicago Nick

    Thank Obama who's more concerned about Mexican rapists being put down like the mutt he was, or defending terrorists in Club Gitmo, or defending Muslims in Libya who don't want us there and hate our guts and love their killer leader, but is scared of Iran or has a pact with them. Pick em....

    July 10, 2011 at 8:07 am | Reply
  17. Chet Roman

    Who bellieves anything from this first amongst Israeli-Firsters. He lied in Iran Contra and should have spent time in jail for his treason. His one and only concern is Israel and his propaganda has never been in the best interests of the U.S. After the election of Hamas he championed and coordinated the planned coup against the legally elected government. Why should anyone listen to this foreign agent?

    July 10, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Reply
    • Nomad

      As an Iranian, I reject the issue you bring up. Every time there is a conversation about Iran, someone like you grays up the water with Israel. Us Persians don't care about Israel, or palestenians, you are in the wrong forum. Don't LINK us to the palestenian cause we hate it.

      July 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Reply
  18. lizName

    Why not ask What happens when Israel kills Americans – like Rachel Carrie or the American citizen killed on board the Gaza flotilla last year not to mention the victims of the USS Liberty as well as all the US Soldiers killed in Israeli-inspired wars such as the invasion if Iraq.

    July 11, 2011 at 12:33 am | Reply
    • Nomad

      As an Iranian, I reject the issue you bring up. Don't LINK us to the palestenian cause we hate it.

      July 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Reply

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