The administration of Barack Hussein Obama seldom missed an opportunity to insist that the alternative to the Iran nuclear deal was a war with Iran, a prospect that has now presumably been kicked further down the road. Middle Easterners are not so lucky: They get to fight their wars with Iran right now.
Where America stands on the question of the wars that Iran is fueling across the Middle East has been obscured to some extent by outdated expectations, diplomatic niceties, and deliberate smoke-screens. But it would be wrong to take pro forma statements about America’s alliances with old friends like Turkey, or Saudi Arabia, or Israel at anything like face value. The first thing the Obama Administration did following the recent burning of the Saudi embassy and consulate in Iran by a state-sponsored mob was not to condemn this assault on a longtime U.S. ally. Rather, the White House immediately launched a media campaign pushing the message that the problem was actually Saudi Arabia, and, as anonymous U.S. officials suggested on background, maybe it was time to reconsider America’s regional alliances.
Yet while Obama may hope for convergence, Iran has naturally been seizing the opportunity to leverage U.S. support to advance its own regional interests, which happen to run squarely against the traditional American alliance system. Even more fundamentally, Iran is a revolutionary actor, whose expressed objective is to overturn the existing order and replace it with Iranian hegemony.
True to form, the Iranians used their recent seizure of the U.S. Navy boats and their crew on the day of the State of the Union address two weeks ago to underscore this point, both to the United States and to its traditional regional allies. The newspaper Kayhan, a mouthpiece for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, ran a telling headline about the detention of the sailors, describing the episode as, “the humiliation of the godfather of the Gulf emirates.” The message is clear: Iran is manhandling America with impunity. Allies and clients of the United States have been put on notice.
Hence, the administration has found itself repeatedly acting as Iran’s lawyer, excusing and justifying its behavior, legitimizing its ambitions, and instead lashing out at old regional allies. These dynamics, which the administration set up in order to cooperate with Iran, were codified in the JCPOA and give Iran substantial leverage to determine the terms of the U.S.-Iranian relationship. Insofar as Obama has made the nuclear deal and cooperation with Iran his signature, legacy-setting policy, the United States must act as Iran’s advocate in the region, lest the deal and the promise of cooperation collapse. Sustaining the deal with Iran and gaining its cooperation in the region therefore requires the United States to downgrade traditional allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, which are in direct conflict with Iran throughout the region, in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
The Obama pitch is that American allies should put aside their concern with Iranian expansionism and instead cooperate with Tehran to fight the “real” danger facing the region and the world: Sunni extremism.
In Iraq, the United States not only backs a government deeply penetrated by Iran, but also actively cooperates with Shiite militias run by the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC). A similar set-up, albeit on a much smaller scale, exists in Lebanon, where the United States is providing support to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), which act as an auxiliary force in support of Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based long arm of the IRGC. The collaboration is such that the administration has used the LAF to indirectly pass on intelligence that has benefited Hezbollah. The pretext is the same: fighting ISIS and (Sunni) extremism.
After retreating from its position that Bashar Assad must go, the administration is now working to compel its old regional allies and the rebel forces they support in Syria to effectively surrender and adopt its agenda: stop all operations against Assad and focus instead on fighting ISIS. Hence, under this pretext, the administration is pressuring Turkey to shut down its border, including a strip north of Aleppo vital to continued logistical support for rebel groups that are fighting Assad, the Iranians, and ISIS. Simultaneously, the administration is working with the Syrian franchise of the PKK, which is fighting against Turkey.
The “combating ISIS slogan” has proved useful to Iran’s Russian partners as well, as they are cynically using it while actually targeting all anti-Assad rebel factions and civilians alike.
The result of this policy is that Iran is allowed to protect its “equities” in Syria, as President Obama put it, while Washington’s former allies are pressured to recognize and come to terms with an Iranian victory in Syria at the negotiating table in Geneva.
Iran’s projection of influence in the region is structurally dependent on destabilizing factors and assets—namely, sectarian militias that dominate weak states with fractured societies. Preserving the bridge for Iran’s presence in the eastern Mediterranean, for example, is predicated on sustaining a minority dictatorship in Syria, whose continuity in turn is based on the permanent subjugation by force of the Sunni Arab majority. And so, protecting Iranian “equities” in Syria means, by definition, the perpetuation of war, continued support to Hezbollah, and a continued flow of refugees into neighboring states and Europe.
Put differently, the people of Syria will continue to die and flee in large numbers. Only with the president’s Iran policy, the United States is now actively cooperating with the actor most responsible for their death and misery.
And the leftists in America, who would vote even for Bernie, wanted the World Court to charge and convict Geo. Bush for crimes against humanity? Where are they now?
Why, then, should Barack Hussein Obama not be tried under that same rules? Along with the charge of Treason at home?
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