Friday, January 24, 2020

The Middle East Realignment

For your and my edification, Jim Hanson has a report on the shift in American policy towards Iran. He explains how the Trump administration, in breaking with its predecessor, has stymied Iran’s hopes for a Shia crescent and has damped down the Iranian love for regional disruption.

Hanson begins by pointing out that the Islamic Republic has always wanted to be a hegemon in the Middle East:

Since the revolution in 1979 and the establishment of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the ruling theocracy has long sought the role of hegemon in the Middle East, not openly but clearly. Proxy armies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and in the Palestinian territories have been the main weapon which has allowed Iran a certain level of deniability to this effort. But the sheer amount of resources and energy put into these elements of Iranian influence shows its importance.

One particular thrust is worth a deeper look: Iranian efforts in the last fifteen years to solidify control of the Shi’a majority areas in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The King of Jordan warned in 2004 of an emerging “Shiite crescent” in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon, a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean.

Iraq felt a strong increase in Iranian influence after the American drawdown began under President Obama in 2009. Lebanon has always felt the touch of the mullahs through Hezbollah and that power has grown over the past decade as well. Since then the civil war in Syria and relative weakness of Hafez al-Assad’s rule in Syria allowed it to fall into Tehran’s orbit as well.

The mastermind of the Iranian effort was Qassem Soleimani. With his assassination the Iranian project was seriously damaged:

The “Shia Crescent” was dealt a heavy blow with the killing of Qassem Soleimani – the architect of Iran’s supremacist goals as well as the puppet master of its terror proxies.
My colleague Dr. Brad Patty wrote in a piece after Soleimani’s death:

“The ability to smooth out conflicts between these organizations and hold them together is a quality that will be extremely hard to replace. It is a quality that was built upon his personal relationships with all of the leaders of these organizations, not merely upon Iranian cash or power. It was built on his willingness to stand under fire with them, to be there on the front lines with them, as well as his ability to bend their competitor organizations.”

Iran’s efforts all across the region are now in jeopardy and it remains to be seen if they can regain their momentum, especially given the “maximum pressure” sanctions led by the United States.

Of course, the American president who seemed clearly to embrace the Iranian project was Barack Obama:

Much of this malign activity by Iran was supposed to end as a by product of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) commonly known as the Iran deal. 

President Obama believed that he could both control Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weapons and bring it into the community of nations with this effort. He was unrealistically optimistic and flaws in the deal were evident. Far from slowing Iran’s efforts at regional domination, it accelerated them because the regime used the cash the U.S. sent to pay and equip its proxy armies and launched them on ever more ambitious missions.

During the end of Obama’s second term in 2014-15, these combined efforts seemed to be bearing fruit and even saw Iranian-controlled militias partnered with the counter-ISIS operations. Iran’s dream of a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean seemed a distinct possibility until 2016. But Donald Trump was elected and the laissez-faire approach to Iranian malign actions practiced by the Obama administration left when President Obama did.

No wonder our foreign policy elites have been so upset with Trump. 


n.n said...

Obama made a great deal... for Iran and its terrorist proxies.

Anonymous said...

C'mon....that writer didn't really believe that propaganda he was pushing about O, did he? Wanting to help them "join the family of nations" or whatever? Puh-leeze.