Barack Obama, in his first press conference after his election, called Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons "unacceptable." He repetitively offered Iran "engagement." He set a deadline of year-end 2009 for Iranian compliance, now unilaterally extended another three months.
Iran contemptuously and repetitively responded that it had no intention of abandoning its nuclear program. Obama's Iran policy is collapsing to the accompaniment of open mockery around the globe. Obama assured us that his "engagement" would make it easier to enlist other countries to stop Iran. The result is the opposite: Virtually every country Obama approached has rebuffed him. Without a credible threat of force, it is now clear that "engagement" has no chance to stop Iran's military nuclear program. It is indisputable that Iranian possession of nuclear weapons would destabilize the Mideast and gravely threaten world peace.
Let's leave China and Russia to the end on the grounds that it may be more difficult to persuade major powers. In recent weeks, the Obama administration launched a curious charm offensive with the announced purpose of weaning Syria -- Tehran's closest ally -- from Iran. Syria has been ruled by the Alawites -- a despised Muslim minority considered heretical -- since the French colonialists elevated them to military leadership. The country has since 1970 been the Mafia-like fiefdom of the Assad family, which murdered more than 15,000 of its own rebellious citizens in Hama in 1982.
Syria has been on the State Department's list of terrorist countries since 1979. Syria routinely dispatched terrorists into Iraq to kill American soldiers. Syria dominates Lebanon, from which it extorts wealth through violent means, including arming the Iranian proxy terrorist forces of Hezb'allah. The U.N. authorized an interminable tribunal to investigate charges that Syria murdered Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's prime minister, in 2005. The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Damascus in protest of the Hariri assassination. I have personal insight into this tragic killing and farcical investigation because Saad Hariri, Rafik's son, desperately asked me in Riyadh in 1998 to pass on his fears that the Syrians would kill his father to preserve their hegemony in Lebanon. What a difference twelve years makes! Saad Hariri is now Lebanon's prime minister. Seeing the weakness of U.S. policy, he now embraces Hezbollah and the Syrian forces who killed his father.
Appeasing Syria Provokes Mockery from Assad and Ahmadinejad
The current Obama approach to Syria includes dispatching six high-level State Department delegations, announcing that our ambassador will return to Damascus, rescinding banned shipment of aircraft parts, and deals worth several billion dollars. Secretary of State Clinton purred over this "slight opening" with Syria and expressed hope that it would lead Syria to curb support for Iran as well as Hezb'allah and Hamas.
Syrian President Bashir Assad, responding instantly following departure of the U. S. Under-Secretary of State from Damascus, invited the Iranian president to his capital. The Assad-Ahmadinjead press conference can be described most tactfully as a roast of the Obama administration. The two presidents announced removal of travel visas, meaning that Iranian terrorists are free to travel to the borders of Europe and Israel. Assad, not ordinarily known for humor, said of U.S. hopes of separating Syria from Iran that "[w]e must have understood Clinton wrong because of bad translation." The Iranian president reliably played straight man: "The Americans are forced to leave the region, leaving their reputation, image, and power behind in order to escape. The U.S. has no influence to stop expansion of Iran-Syria, Syria-Turkey, and Iran-Turkey ties. God willing, Iraq too will join this circle."
The failure of Obama's appeasement was understood in the region. Editor Michael Young asked in his Beirut Star,
"Just what does Barack Obama stand for?" His answer: "The Assad regime's abuse of its own population, Syrian involvement in myriad bombings in Iraq, support for Iraqi Baathists, and its permissiveness toward Al-Qaeda in Iraq have not made the Administration reconsider its Syrian opening. Violence works, and Obama has not proven otherwise. The Obama Administration these days provokes little confidence in its allies, and even less fear in its adversaries" [emphasis added].
Rebuffed by Lebanon, Brazil and Turkey
Syria is not a member of the U.N. Security Council. But Lebanon, Brazil, and Turkey are among the nine non-permanent members. Since Obama has unwisely delegated to the Security Council power to defend American interests, their votes are important. It is clear from what is written above that Lebanon, until recently a U.S. ally with its large but no longer dominant Christian minority, will now vote as directed by Syria and Iran.
Mrs. Clinton made a pitiful visit to Brasilia last week. It is not far-fetched to presume that Brazilian leadership contrasted the empty words of Obama with the deeds of their neighbor, President Chávez of Venezuela, who is assiduously expanding the western hemisphere bridgehead of his Iranian ally. A weekly flight from Tehran to Caracas carries unregistered passengers who can infiltrate our porous southern borders. The president of Brazil told Mrs. Clinton that his country would not "bow" to demands for sanctions against Iran. He suggested that it would be "prudent" to instead pursue negotiations. As in the Middle East, Obama "provokes little confidence" among our traditional good-neighbor allies.
Even more ruinous is the state of Obama's relations with Turkey, a country he has fulsomely praised as a Muslim democracy, notwithstanding the apparent drive of its present government to create an Islamist police state. Last week, Obama did nothing to prevent a symbolic 23-to-22 vote in a House of Representatives committee for a resolution labeling as "genocide" Turkish massacres of Armenians during World War I. I have lobbied on this issue and understand its intractability. Most historians call the events genocide, but a minority say it occurred during the fog of a war of reciprocal massacres in which Armenians aided invading Russians. The resolution is driven by understandable pressure of Armenian-Americans on California congressmen. But analysts of U.S. foreign policy understand that passing the resolution would so alienate Turkish voters that vital U.S. interests would be undermined -- e.g., supply of U.S. forces in Iraq, our air base at Incirlik, and the role of Turkish military (NATO's second-largest) in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Ankara Decries America's "Lack of Strategic Vision"
The Turks did not distinguish themselves by the bullying tone of their comments on the vote, and Obama may feel hamstrung by campaign promises he made -- which he cannot conceivably honor -- to recognize the "genocide." Turkey has resisted sanctions against Iran because Ahmadinejad was correct when he boasted in Beirut of blossoming Turkish-Iranian ties. But if Obama thought he might get any help from Turkey, whose government he courted by visiting its capital on his first overseas trip, his inaction on the genocide resolution provoked this blast from Ankara:
This decision, which could adversely affect our co-operation on a wide common agenda with the U.S., also regrettably attests to a lack of strategic vision [emphasis supplied].
Obama's difficulties in obtaining cooperation on sanctions from smaller countries underscore his better-known problems with veto-wielding Russia and China, whose interests are diverse from ours. These countries, in different ways, see themselves as rivals of the U.S. and have extensive commercial relations with Iran, by whom they do not feel threatened. Russia at times has indicated support for mild sanctions -- rather than the "biting" sanctions aimed at energy import/export (Iran is already rationing refined petroleum), insurance, and banking --understood by many congressmen as the only method short of war to influence Iran.
There were reports at week's end that the administration would retreat to seeking diminished sanctions that exempt China and other permanent members of the Security Council from compliance. This would confirm the complete collapse of "engagement." One might call it "diss-engagement," warranting the mockery of Obama's policies echoing from Damascus, Beirut, Brasilia, and even Ankara.
Joel Sprayregen is associated with think-tanks dealing with issues of security and human rights in Washington, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and Ankara. 44 Comments on "Obama's Iran Policy Collapses to the Accompaniment of Mockery Around the Globe"
Iran helping Syria to crack down on protestors
Israel let the cat out of the bag a couple of weeks ago by leaking the news that
Hezb'allah and Iran was helping Syria handle anti-regime protestors.
Now the US government has confirmed some of this information, adding that Iran is also looking for an opening to help Shiite opposition groups in the Gulf.
Wall Street Journal:
Iran is secretly helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad put down pro-democracy demonstrations, according to U.S. officials, who say Tehran is providing gear to suppress crowds and assistance blocking and monitoring protesters' use of the Internet, cellphones and text-messaging.
At the same time, communications intercepted by U.S. spy agencies show Tehran is actively exploring ways to aid some Shiite hardliners in Bahrain and Yemen and destabilize longstanding U.S. allies there, say U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. Such moves could challenge interests of the U.S. and Saudi Arabia and inflame sectarian tensions across the Middle East, they say.
"We believe that Iran is materially assisting the Syrian government in its efforts to suppress their own people," said an Obama administration official.
U.S. officials say they don't see Iran as the driving force behind popular revolts against longtime U.S. allies in the Mideast, and caution they have no concrete evidence that Iran is providing or preparing large-scale financial or military support to opposition elements in Bahrain or Yemen.
Rather, the White House has worried that protracted political turmoil could provide an opening for additional influence by Tehran, whose nuclear ambitions are a concern to the U.S. and its allies in Europe and the Middle East.
It would make sense for Hezb'allah to assist their patron Assad in cracking down on protestors. The terrorist group may even be more reliable than the Syrian army or secret police. They owe much to Assad who has facilitated the transfer of weapons from Iran for many years, while offering their leaders protection and sanctuary from Israeli efforts to assassinate them.
More worrisome is Iranian meddling in Bahrain, which Ryan Mauro reports may presage a proxy war between Iranian backed Shias and US-friendly governments in the region. Iran can cause a lot of trouble with very little effort. However, as Mauro points out, most indigenous Shia groups in Bahrain have rejected Iranian help and wish to see a peaceful transition to more rights for Shias in the Gulf.
Not all Shias in Bahrain have rejected Iranian aid, however, and it seems pretty clear that Iran will do anything they can to destabilize American allies in the region.
May 18, 2011 Revolutionary Guards and Ammo Dispatched to Syria
According to reports by Green experts of Iran (an
opposition group in Iran), the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has dispatched 65 agents via four planes, filled with guns, ammunition, and other military equipment, to Damascus during the past week. This is the second such convoy that has been sent from Tehran to Damascus in just the last month. The planes fly from Tehran to Damascus in such a way that it coincides with passenger flight patterns in order to avoid raising suspicion.
Commander Ebrahim Jabbari, who heads up the Vali'eh Amr (Supreme Leader's) revolutionary forces, is in charge of these security and military flights.
Expert analysis shows that following the widespread and bloody social uprising throughout Syria, and the Assad government's failure to contain the political situation, frenetic deliberations between Iranian and Syrian authorities have increased. Fearing the frailty of the Assad rule, which in turn would weaken Iran's influence in Syria, one part of the operational plan is to bait the Israeli government and incite unrest in the region. To this end, the military and security forces of the IRGC have created an operations outlet entitled the Ammar Operations HQ in Damascus.
Based on reports obtained from Iranian Green experts, the Ammar Ops HQ has begun coordinating with various Lebanese Hezb'allah and Palestinian groups, which distributed 600 heavy firearms that have been set up and situated in designated areas. The report also stresses that the operation has been planned in such a way that the role of the Syrian government is minimized in the crisis, giving it an air of a more impromptu and spontaneous confrontation. Then in the midst of the confrontations, Iran plans to enter the fray and appear as the uniter of the Palestinian people and a hero among Arab governments.
Other analysis also illustrate that the Ammar Ops HQ, which also has branches on the borders of Syria, Lebanon and Israel, is essentially intending to wreak international havoc and fan the flames of regional chaos.
As I reported on May 09 th ,The Iranian Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, held a covert meeting with commanders of the Revolutionary Guards, representatives of the Syrian embassy, members of Hezb'allah, and leaders of the Sadr movement, to put together a plan to suppress the Syrian protesters and save the Syrian regime. It seems now the plan is extended to destabilize Israel by inciting a third intifada in which protesters would storm Israel's borders on three fronts: Palestinian territories, Lebanon and Syria. This in turn would draw Israel into some kind of retaliation to protect its borders, which then will be used as a tool and a call for unification among Arabs and the redirection of the media and Syria's internal problems, giving the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, enough time to fully suppress the internal uprising.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad talked about the recent clashes at Israeli borders during the "Nakba Day" protests and said the clashes showed Israel's real nature. "Like a cancer cell that spreads through the body, this regime infects any region. It must be removed from the body," he said.
Yesterday, Hezb'allah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, lauded what he called the Palestinians' struggle to acquire the right to return to their homeland and predicted that they will attain their goal soon.
One thing is for sure as unrest spreads in Iran and Syria; their leaders will try to draw Israel into an unwanted war so that they can divert attention and further solidify power. It is time for the West to confront these brutal regimes and openly support the people so that we can once and for all put an end to the terrorist leaders of Iran and Syria.
Reza Kahlili is a pseudonym for an ex-CIA spy who requires anonymity for safety reasons. He is the author of A Time to Betray a book about his double life as a CIA agent in Iran's Revolutionary Guards, published by Threshold Editions, Simon & Schuster, April 2010.
August 27, 2011 Iran criticizes Syria for crackdown
By any standard, it was a mild rebuke. But the idea that the Iranians are criticizing President Assad at all is remarkable when you consider some of their own Revolutionary Guards are helping the Syrian president in his crackdown:
Iran, Syria's closest ally, called on the government in Damascus to recognize its people's "legitimate" demands on Saturday, in the first such remarks to come from the Persian country since the five-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad started.
Although the remarks, by Iran's foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, were broad and did not call for Mr. Assad to step down, they were the first public sign of growing unease with the crisis in Syria -even as Iran has maintained an unyielding crackdown on its own dissenters.
Other governments in the region are increasingly worried that the crisis could spill beyond Syria's borders, especially given Mr. Assad's seeming determination to snuff out a resilient demonstration movement despite the cost in sectarian and social tensions. That violence continued on Saturday, as Syrian security forces opened fire on hundreds of demonstrators across the country, killing at least three people, according to activists.
"The government should answer to the demands of its people, be it Syria, Yemen or other countries," Mr. Salehi was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying. "The people of these nations have legitimate demands, and the governments should answer these demands as soon as possible."
No doubt the people of Iran are behind the protestors and unless they want demonstrators in their own streets, it made good sense to try and portray the government on the side of freedom without undermining Assad.
But this is a slippery slope. If Iranians take to the streets again, the government may be forced into ever more serious criticisms of the crackdown until they too are calling for Assad to leave.