As I wrote last week, our allies in the Middle East and human rights activists in Iran fear that the administration will jettison all issues in the interest of getting a nuclear deal with Iran. If, as many perceive, President Obama is desperate for a foreign policy win and desperate to avoid being pressured to act militarily to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran, he would surely pay a steep price, even if that means ignoring Iran’s conduct on a number of other fronts.
Former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams recently wrote that “the United States should make it clear to allies in the region such as Israel and the Gulf Arab states that any nuclear deal with Iran will stop it from developing a nuclear weapon but will not stop Washington from confronting Iranian subversion and aggression—such as its sending hundreds of Revolutionary Guard and Quds Force combatants and advisers to Syria.”
He noted, “There are many suspicions in the region that a ‘grand bargain’ between the United States and Iran is still in the cards, and that if a nuclear deal can be reached, U.S. resistance to other aspects of Iranian conduct would be softened just when sanctions relief would be giving Iran more economic resources. These fears should loudly be laid to rest. The Obama administration should clarify that it seeks a nuclear deal with Iran, but has no illusions about or intentions to negotiate a broad rapprochement with the Islamic Republic, and wi shll help those nations that are resisting Iranian misconduct.”
Unfortunately the president may in fact be seeking a grand deal with Iran, starting with Iraq. The Post reports:
In an interview with Yahoo News, Kerry said the radical Islamist fighters sweeping through northern Iraq post “an existential challenge” to the country and threaten the stability of the region. He said President Obama was thoroughly considering “every option that is available,” including drone strikes.
“They’re not the whole answer, but they may well be one of the options that are important,” Kerry said. “When you have people murdering, assassinating in these mass massacres, you have to stop that. And you do what you need to do if you need to try to stop it from the air or otherwise,” he said.
Kerry also stressed that “we are deeply committed to the integrity of Iraq as a country.”
He said the United States is open to talks with Iran about the situation in Iraq, and he would not rule out military cooperation with Washington’s longtime adversary, which has been a U.S. nemesis in the region for 35 years. Iran and Iraq both have Shiite Muslim majorities and governments led by Shiites.
It seems the president will do anything to avoid using U.S. power in the region, even if it means accelerating Iran’s influence in Iraq. Imagine the reaction of our allies in Egypt, Sunni Gulf states and Israel when we let on that we are going to be assisting Iran’s hegemonic vision and thereby bolstering the state sponsor of groups including Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. In lieu of strengthening U.S. influence in the Middle East, Obama seems ready to bolster Iran’s. And if he is bent on this course, surely he’ll not challenge Iran and its puppet in Syria. Why, that might “upset” Iran and either wreck a nuclear deal or force Obama to handle Iraq on his own.
Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies e-mailed, “To enlist Tehran, the leading state sponsor of terrorism, in a fight against ISIS, a non-state terrorist organization, makes as much sense as stocking a river with crocodiles to deal with a piranha problem.”
So let’s get this straight: Obama will tolerate Bashar al-Assad’s continued reign of terror in Syria (where, Abrams pointed out, “A minimum of 160,000 people have been killed. About 6.5 million Syrians have been forced to leave their homes and are displaced inside Syria, and 2.7 million are refugees in neighboring countries—altogether, nearly half of Syria’s population of 22 million.”) This reverses U.S. policy that declared Assad must go, and gives Iran a victory there. Then he’ll turn to Iran and let it get its mitts on Iraq, another Iran victory. So much for “containing” Iran. And after all this, does anyone imagine Obama would, if Iran refuses to give up its nuclear weapons program, use military force?
Mark Dubowitz, who helped craft the anti-Iran sanctions framework, finds this all deeply disturbing. He told Right Turn, “Iran is reducing American negotiating leverage on multiple fronts. The White House permitted the Iranian economy to recover from an imminent crisis by de-escalating the sanctions pressure. The White House ignored a Syrian opposition who once shared our interests and stood by while Iran helped turn Syria into a jihadist inferno.”
He observed, “Now the White House is further opening the door to Iranian intervention in Iraq to try and contain a crisis that was of Iran’s own making. Tehran has successfully fanned the flames of sectarian bloodshed and positioned itself as the firewall against the very violence it has created. The White House keeps granting Iran reprieves and strategic openings that Tehran is converting into greater levels of negotiating leverage and nuclear intransigence.” No wonder the “moderate” Iran President Hassan Rouhani declared over the weekend that even if there is no deal on nukes by the July 20 deadline, backing for international sanctions will have crumbled.
Consider how much or all of this might have been prevented. Obama could have acted quickly in Syria to aid non-jihadi rebels, accelerating Assad’s departure and preventing a mass slaughter and influx of al-Qaeda jihadis into that country. That would have been a loss for Iran and a gain in U.S. prestige. Had he (along with then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) managed to obtain a status of forces deal to leave troops in Iraq and/or later responded in a timely manner to Iraq’s pleas for help, Iraq might be as stable as it was when President George W. Bush left office, the U.S. victory in Iraq might be intact, Iran’s ambitions in Iraq could be thwarted and the confidence of Sunni allies in the United States retained.
Under Obama, the Middle East alignments seem to be the United States and Iran vs. (former?) U.S. allies. Whatever Obama’s intent, the result seems to be chaos, violence, the spread of terrorism, the unnerving of allies and the triumph of Iran. A world without nukes? Once Iran has its weapon, our allies will be scrambling to get theirs, knowing full well they can rely only on themselves. The Middle East arms race that follows will destroy what is left of the nuclear non-proliferation agreement.
I’m curious to know if Hillary Clinton thinks this is smart diplomacy.