Hey America, Iran still isn't threat No. 1
Even after the alleged Iranian plot to assassinate a Saudi ambassador on US soil, Iran is not the threat to the US that most Americans – and political leaders – think it is. The mythical Iranian Goliath is still largely a fallacy.
The White House announcement of the alleged Iranian terror plot to target the Saudi ambassador to the United States has renewed the American debate: How significant is the Iranian threat?Skip to next paragraph
Well before Attorney General Holder announced the thwarted assassination plot, in two recent Gallup polls, Americans ranked Iran as enemy No. 1 – in front of the two countries the US is at war in; before China, which owns over $1 trillion in US treasuries; in front of Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was found; ahead of Yemen and Somalia where some of the most recent terrorist attackers hail from; and even before unpredictable, weaponized North Korea.
The facts surrounding the recent plot remain hazy. The US has accused two individuals and the Quds Force, a wing of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, in the plot. It is not known to what extent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei may have been involved, if at all.
But let’s start with what we do know about the danger Iran poses to the United States. You may be surprised that it’s not nearly as great as most Americans – and US political leaders – believe.
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George Bush included Iran in the "axis of evil" in his State of the Union address in 2002. Rick Santorum said in the Ames Republican presidential debate a little over a month ago, “anyone that suggests that Iran is not a threat to this country or is not a threat to stability in the Middle East is obviously not seeing the world very clearly.” But clarity is not prevailing in the calculations of Mr. Santorum and others. The Eurasia Group’s 2011 Top Risks Report included Iran in the "Red Herring" category.
And this latest furor over Iran may fall into that category as well.
Of course, Tehran has denied any knowledge or involvement in the alleged plan – and the US is only accusing those individuals arrested. US officials, government buildings, and US civilians were apparently not a direct target in this plot, though the planners were not concerned about civilian deaths that might have resulted.