The alleged Iranian assassination plot raises a number of issues. First, are the now obsolete words "outreach" and "reset" that were much in vogue in 2008 and 2009. During the campaign Obama reiterated that he might talk to the Iranians in a way Bush simply had been unwilling to, and thereby unlock a supposedly diplomatic impasse; and he cited in his Al-Arabiya interview his desire for outreach to the larger Muslim world, as well as the resonance of his own familiarity with Islam, by virtue of his paternal family members being Muslims. That too would be in stark contrast with the Bush swagger and Texas evangelicalism. Such assumptions translated into silence when hundreds of thousands poured into the streets of Teheran in spring 2009, many expecting words of encouragement from Obama, who instead offered mostly silence and the usual contextualization about America's past in that part of the world.
Then there were the four serial 'deadlines' for Iranian nuclear compliance—by the UN meetings in New York, by the G-20 summit, by the first of the year, and by the face-to-face meetings: all snubbed without consequences. Do we remember now how concessions to Russia were supposed to win Putin's help in closing down the Iranian nuclear facilities—as if what bothers us also must bother Putin? In addition, there was the continual use of Iranian agents in both Afghanistan and Iraq to oppose American efforts to stabilize those countries. In short, this latest news simply confirms the absurdity of Obama's 2008 rhetoric and subsequent Iranian policies and so ends the use of 'reset' and 'outreach' for good as legitimate vocabulary. The plot, in other words, is the epitaph of a failed policy.
Second, the alleged plot also questions another narrative, the demonization of those wishing to close the border ("alligators and moats"), or the idea that fossilized concepts like fences, more guards, sanctions, etc. either do not work or only hurt hard-working immigrants. But an uncontrolled border has already led to mayhem, something apparently well know to the Iranian conspirators, who must have assumed that either it would not be hard for them to cross back and forth into and out of Mexico or for cartel killers to do the same. It was supposed to be a right-wing talking point only that potential terrorists could capitalize on undefended borders; apparently our enemies understood both the advantages of such porousness and the politically-correct implications that spawned it.
Third, the designated targets of Saudis and Israelis remind us of a hushed, but de facto commonality in the Middle East. Iran seeks the mantle of revolutionary Islam in the Middle East, a sort of cruder Shiite form of what Turkey is trying to do with its new Ottomanism. Against these efforts, a few widely disparate nations in the region, who share a commitment to a Westernized global commercial system, under which they have done very well, are starting to worry that lots of enemies would like to destroy them for reasons that transcend religion. The Gulf states, perhaps Jordan, and some in Lebanon realize that, compared to the alternatives, Israel is tolerable. Saudis at least know that Israelis are not trying to kill their ambassadors.
Finally, these disclosures are just the sort that the media in wag-the-dog fashion used to doubt during the Bush administration. It reminds us that detailing conspiracies that are aimed at killing Americans was once partisan and now principled–a further illustration of what weird times we are in when blowing up 2,000 plus alleged terrorists by targeted drone assassination is a more moral thing than water-boarding three confessed terrorists ("dead men tell no tales"?). The media has reacted far differently to this latest plot than they did with all sorts of Bush administration disclosures about such cabals; so it is a pleasant hypocrisy to see the media channel the administration's worry about our collective safety, as if around around January, 2009 everything from Guantanamo to invading Muslim countries without congressional authorization became A-OK.