ANALYSIS: Why Obama’s mistakes in the Middle East should never be repeated

Tony Duheaume
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For decades, the US took military action against states it deemed were a threat to it; but it has refrained from taking any military action against Iran – even though the latter’s radical leadership has actively supported terrorist activities against the US and its allies.

Using proxy forces, the Iranian regime has exported terror since its creation to both the Middle East and the West, claiming many lives over the years. Although Iran is also known to be behind the deaths of many coalition soldiers in Iraq, through its supply of weapons and training to terror groups, the US and Iran have continued to cooperate with each other on the grounds of stabilising Iraq.

According to both sides, the aim of this cooperation has been to stave off an all-out civil war and unite the country behind a government of unity – none of which has been fully achieved, mainly due to Iran’s meddling.

Iraq turns satellite state

In reality, Iran’s interference in Iraqi affairs since the fall of Saddam Hussein has turned the state of Iraq into a virtual Iranian satellite. With the fall of ISIS as a ground force, Iranian military leaders have cleverly merged infamous Shia militias into the Iraqi armed forces, thereby effectively taking control of the country’s military.

Saddam was taken down by a US coalition on concocted evidence of producing WMDs. However, Iran has got scot-free although there is indisputable evidence that it has been pursuing nuclear weapons for decades, that its leaders have directed acts of terrorism against both the West and its Gulf State neighbours, and that it has instigated foreign wars that act in the interest of its hegemonic pursuits, using both its Quds Force and foreign proxies like Hezbollah.

Also read: Re-defining the Near East’s borders

It isn’t a case of whether military action would have been the right course to take against Iran, it comes down to the fact that other neighbouring countries have experienced the wrath of Western aggression – including Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – while Iran has got off very lightly. Not only has the regime been treated with kid gloves, it has managed to build up its military might beyond its wildest dreams – through billions of dollars returned to it through the Iran nuclear deal.

Then with its extensively updatedwar machine and internal security apparatus becoming more powerful by the day, Iran was invited to go to war against ISIS by the Iraqi government, thereby giving it the opportunity for its complete takeover. With the Obama administration determined not to place a substantial number of boots on the ground, Iran’s intervention was seen as a blessing, and through this intervention Iran has now been able to effectively annex both Iraq and Syria.

John Kerry, foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany and EU foreign policy chief, said that Iran deserves the sanctions relief it’s due under last year’s landmark nuclear deal. (AP)
John Kerry, foreign ministers of Britain, France and Germany and EU foreign policy chief, said that Iran deserves the sanctions relief it’s due under last year’s landmark nuclear deal. (AP)

Obama’s mishandling

Under the Obama administration, the US left Iraq in great haste. Similarly, Obama turned his back on Syria, when it would have made sense for him to back opposition rebels and introduce a no-fly zone in order to turn the war in rebel’s favour and bring down the tyrant, Bashar al-Assad.

As the Syrian crisis worsened, Obama’s partial approach towards Iran culminated in the nuclear Deal — which has only stalled the regime’s progress towards building a nuclear weapon as it can always revive it at any time it wants. However, vast amount of Iran’s frozen assets have been restored to it, which has made it a richer, more powerful nation, which can pursue military and missile programs.

By making a handful of insignificant gestures to the Obama administration, Iran’s leaders eventually gave the US virtually nothing in return.As far as Iran is concerned, it has gained prestige across the globe, and even now that Donald Trump’s administration is confronting the problem at its source, Europe continues to hang on to the deal, through which Iran will be to pursue its dream of building nuclear weapons at any time.

ANALYSIS: Trump’s new policy: Solidarity with Iran’s people

When the war in Syria was at its height, Assad used chemical weapons against civilians. For his part, Obama threatened Assad with a red line and with hollow threats of military action. However, Russians soon sidelined the US by forging another humiliating deal, through which Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons and the US backed down from taking any retaliatory action against Syria.

With this deal being brokered by Syria’s ally Russia, Assad agreed to “give up” his stocks of chemical weapons, as long as the US agreed not to carry out air strikes against him. He also demanded other concessions for his chemical weapons manufacturing sites.

Just as Obama left enough caveats in the deal with Iran for the latter to be able to later revive its nuclear weapons program, Assad was left with underground facilities with which he can still use to continue his chemical weapons program at a time of his choosing. Following this deal, Assad went on to pummel Syria into rubble, slaughtering hundreds of thousands of his own people, and leaving millions to flee the country. In fact, he continued to use chemical weapons on civilians.

A lopsided deal

As regards the nuclear deal, Iran entered into an agreement with the West over putting a freeze on its nuclear program, as well as on ensuring that its 9,500 centrifuges would continue to remain idle in two uranium enrichment plants. Iran agreed that it would stop enriching uranium to the 20 per cent purity (which would be close to weapons grade), and any existing stockpiles coming into that category would be converted into harmless oxide.

In lieu of its compliance, the deal provided for reducing sanctions on Iran and on certain items (like on gold and chemical exports) there’s provision for suspending sanctions altogether. The deal has also made several services exempt of sanctions, and has provisions for more relief in future, even as the freeze on billions of dollars in Iran’s frozen assets gets lifted.

OPINION: Risks of Iran nuclear deal collapse

This agreement works perfectly for Iran. With its new-found respectability among other nations, it will be able to make lucrative deals, keep up the pretence of respectability, rebuild its economy, strengthen its armed forces, and enter into trade with a multitude of nations that will eventually be willing to stand by it. At a later stage, when the Iranian leadership believes it has gained the trust of the world, it shall revive its nuclear program and the mullah’s dream of creating a nuke will eventually be realised.

With Iran’s wealth, prestige and power being restored through its trade deals across the world and having Russia as an ally, the ruling clerics plan to make the regime a force to reckon with on the world stage and make its hold on the Middle East irreversible in order to fulfil Khomeini’s dream of knocking the US off its perch as guardian of the Middle East.

It is almost as though the West had been building up to the day when Iran would become the predominant power of the Middle East. Through the nuclear deal, the West appears to be inviting Iran to return to the international fold, with the hope that the theocratic republic would become an ally of the West rather than an enemy.

President Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal in the White House in Washington, on October 13, 2017. (Reuters)
President Trump speaks about the Iran nuclear deal in the White House in Washington, on October 13, 2017. (Reuters)

Trump travails for Iran

With all of the talk in Western media on how Iran is adhering to the nuclear deal, there is hardly a mention of the regime’s murders and other crimes against its own people. Nobody mentions its system of carrying out arbitrary arrests, torture and execution, as the jury of greedy speculators decide to be one-sided in this matter.

During Obama’s presidency, Iranian leaders felt they were negotiating from a position of strength over the nuclear issue. In their eyes, Barack Obama was a weak president, who being in trouble at home, with his popularity on the wane due to a litany of failed domestic policies, needed to prove himself to the American people on the world stage.

But with this deal only delaying Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons, with much of its secretive projects now going deep into the mountainous underground bunkers, Iranian boffins are certain to be further ahead with their nuclear program than the rest of the world realises.

Also read: Iran says has options if nuclear deal fails

So with some intelligence reports suggesting the IRGC may already have a nuclear weapons capability, with nukes that can fit on the long-range missiles they are developing, the future looks bleak.

While Obama was in the White House, the Iranian regime felt America had gone soft. It also strongly believed that the US was losing its credibility as the guardian of the world. It even harboured the notion that Iran is growing in strength and once it has acquired nuclear weapons, it would attain superpower status. As a revolutionary force, it will then become unstoppable.

However, with Donald Trump now in the White House, Iran’s uncertainty over its nuclear program is rising, and with his plans to decertify the nuclear agreement with Iran, Trump is proving to Iran that America is no pushover, and is a force to be reckoned with.

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