After the attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress, the Bush administration, and terrorist experts complained that the country had simply not "connected the dots" provided by prior terrorist threats.
The 9/11 Commission also concluded that the attacks "should not have come as a surprise," as "Islamist extremists had given plenty of warning that they meant to kill Americans indiscriminately and in large numbers."
The Commission then listed 10 Islamic terror plots against the US prior to 9/11:
"In February 1993, a group led by Ramzi Yousef tried to bring down the World Trade Center with a truck bomb.
"Plans by Omar Abdel Rahman and others to blow up the Holland and Lincoln tunnels and other New York City landmarks ...
"In October 1993, Somali tribesmen shot down US helicopters, killing 18 and wounding 73...
"In early 1995, police in Manila uncovered a plot by Ramzi Yousef to blow up a dozen U.S. airliners while they were flying over the Pacific.
"In November 1995, a car bomb exploded outside the office of the US program manager for the Saudi National Guard in Riyadh, killing five Americans and two others.
"In June 1996, a truck bomb demolished the Khobar Towers apartment complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 US servicemen and wounding hundreds.
"In August 1998, al Qaeda, carried out near-simultaneous truck bomb attacks on the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded thousands more.
"In December 1999, Jordanian police foiled a plot to bomb hotels and other sites frequented by American tourists...
"...US Customs agent arrested Ahmed Ressam at the US-Canadian border as he was smuggling in explosives intended for an attack on Los Angeles International Airport.
"In October 2000, an al Qaeda team in Aden, Yemen, used a motorboat filled with explosives to blow a hole in the side of a destroyer, the USS Cole, almost sinking the vessel and killing 17 American sailors."
Despite the overwhelming indications that an attack like 9/11 was around the corner, as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the country in her April 2004 testimony to the 9/11 Commission, "The terrorists were at war with us, but we were not yet at war with them. For more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America's response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient."
Are we now better equipped to "connect the terrorist-threats by dots" than we were prior to 9/11? Certainly we are not still echoing the testimony of Richard Clarke when he told the Emerging Threats Subcommittee in the summer of 2000 that the administration "had not yet" determined how to spend homeland security funds even some eight years after the first World Trade Center bombing of February 1993.
Unfortunately, not only are we not connecting the terrorist dots, we are actively downplaying their significance. Nowhere else is this more apparent than in the virtually complete failure, on the part of the US, to hold Iran responsible for the terror attacks that have killed and maimed thousands of Americans since 1979. This failure is all the more disturbing after the numerous court decisions that have found Iran accountable for nearly $60 billion in damages owed to the victims and survivors of these attacks, including the 9/11 attacks.
The outstanding news analyst and author Melanie Phillips wrote nearly a year ago that Iran had been "...perpetrating acts of war against Western interests for more than three decades -- including playing a key role in the 9/11 attacks on America." Phillips noted that a Revolutionary Guard-Iranian Intelligence (MOIS) task force
"designed contingency plans for unconventional warfare against the US... aimed at breaking the American economy, crippling or disheartening the US, and disrupting the American social, military and political order -- all without the risk of a head-to-head confrontation which Iran knew it would lose."
She explained that the court testimony from former Iranian agents illustrates that Iran "...devised a scheme to crash hijacked Boeing 747s into the World Trade Center, the White House and the Pentagon. ... The plan's code name was 'Shaitan dar Atash' ('Satan in flames')." Further, the court evidence revealed that Iran obtained "a Boeing 757-767-777 flight simulator which it hid at a secret site where the 9/11 terrorists were trained."
In December 2011, Judge George B. Daniels found that Iran, with the participation of its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was directly and heavily involved in the 9/11 atrocities. Khamenei instructed intelligence operatives that while expanding collaboration between Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, they must restrict communications to existing contacts with al-Qaeda's second-in-command Ayman al Zawahiri and Imad Mughniyeh -- Hezbollah's then terrorism chief and agent of Iran.
Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (center), is shown meeting in May 2014 with Iran's military chief of staff and the commanders of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. (Image source: IRNA)
While the 9/11 Commission found solid evidence Iran aided the 9/11 hijackers in their travels from Iran, the "Extensive cooperation in major global terrorist activities," between Iran, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, including the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia and the 1998 East Africa US embassy bombings, escaped the 9/11 Commission's detailed attention. Notably, as long ago as in 2000, a US Defense Intelligence Agency analyst was alerting the government to a web of connections between al-Qaeda, the Iranian intelligence agencies controlled by Khamenei, and other terrorist groups.
Many press reports and analysts, cognizant of Iran's terrorist history and aware that Iran has been designated by the US Department of State as the world's premier state sponsor of terror, choose to believe the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal should not be derailed over concern of Iran's possible future terrorist plans. Especially when it is often assumed these plans are aimed primarily at Israel and groups in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, and thus not of real concern to the United States.
Is the nuclear deal with Iran thus a good trade? We get to slow Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons, but any serious sanctions or military effort to stop Iran's terror agenda are off the table. Let's connect the new nuclear-related Iran dots.
First, the world's expert on Iran ballistic missiles, Uzi Rubin, revealed on July 15 that Iran has five new missile capabilities: they can strike the middle of Europe, including Berlin; they can target with GPS accuracy military facilities in Saudi Arabia; they can launch missiles from underground secret tunnels and caves without warning; they have missiles that are ready to fire 24/7; and they have developed other accurate missiles whose mission is to strike targets throughout Gulf region.
Second, the Associated Press revealed that a side agreement under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear "deal" actually allows Iran to break out of the agreement in year 11, not 15, at which point Iran will not even be six months away from having sufficient nuclear fuel to arm a nuclear warhead, and Iran will be able to install nuclear centrifuges five times more efficient than the ones they have today.
Third, according to German intelligence reports, Iran has, a few dozen times since the July 2015 nuclear agreement, sought to purchase nuclear ballistic missile technology, a violation of previous UN resolutions.
As Americans wonder who will be behind the next terrorist attacks on our country -- "lone wolf" terrorists inspired by social media from Islamist groups; organized cells of ISIS, Al Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah; states such as Iran and Syria; or a combination of all three -- we would do well to be reminded of the long-term use of terrorism by the former Soviet Union as one of their trademark elements of "statecraft."
Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons has not been stopped and at best has been delayed. Add to that Iran's enhanced ballistic missile capability, its growing partnership with North Korea and its history of terrorist attacks on the United States, and connecting the dots reveals a stark reality -- nuclear terrorism by missile may be on its way.
During the spring and summer of 2001, US intelligence agencies received a stream of warnings that Al Qaeda was determined to strike. The specific information pointed to threats from overseas. The Bush administration began developing a strategy in early 2001 to eliminate Al Qaeda in three years. The 9/11 attacks happened "too soon."
Iran seeks to do us grave harm, potentially with ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. The threat warnings are clear and we have strong evidence -- Iran has attacked us repeatedly over the past 30 years
But instead of heeding the nuclear missile "dots" that are emerging all around us, we are busy promoting trade with Iran, downplaying its violations of the nuclear deal, simply ignoring its ballistic missile developments and dismissing the growing evidence of its terrorist past.
In short, we are not connecting these dots; we are erasing them.
Dr. Peter Huessy is President of GeoStrategic Analysis, a defense consulting firm he founded in 1981, and was the senior defense consultant at the National Defense University Foundation for more than 20 years. He is now the National Security Fellow at the AFPC, and Senior Defense Consultant at the Air Force Association.