Commentary Magazine


Petraeus’s Downfall and U.S. Iran Policy

At Tablet, Lee Smith explains what the Petraeus affair could mean for U.S. Iran policy:

According to former Petraeus aides, leading military officials, policymakers, and analysts close to the four-star general that I spoke to this week, Petraeus understood, more than anyone else in our national-security apparatus, that the Islamic Republic is at war with the United States. By Petraeus’ reckoning, they said, it’s not possible to strike a grand bargain with Iran over its nuclear weapons program because the larger problem is the regime itself, whose endgame is to drive the United States from the region. And no arm of the regime is more dangerous than its external operations unit, the Qods Force, whose mastermind, Qassem Suleimani, is considered by Petraeus to be a personal enemy.

In seeing Iran as a threat to vital U.S. interests, Petraeus bucked the mainstream of more than 30 years of U.S. foreign policy. Presidents and legislators from both parties, as well as military and civilian officials, have tended to downplay the Iranian threat, seeking engagement with Tehran in the vague hopes of reaching a deal that might lead the regime to finally call off its dogs and leave us in peace. Petraeus, on the other hand, fought the Iranians.

As Smith goes on to explain, that fight was literal; while leading U.S. Central Command, Petraeus battled Iranian proxies in Iraq and Afghanistan. “During the course of almost a decade, Petraeus became Washington’s institutional memory of all of Iran’s activities directed against the United States and its allies,” writes Smith.

What does that mean for the U.S.’s Iran policy? Not much directly. But Smith argues that Petraeus was one of the few people at the top of the administration who truly understood the Iranian threat. He understood that the regime was the problem, and that negotiations weren’t going to solve it. Losing someone like that means losing an advocate at the top levels of government who could bring that perspective to the table. That’s a loss that won’t be easy to make up for.

On a lighter note, in case you were wondering what Iranian hardliners have to say about this whole mess, Max Fisher flags this bizarre article from Iran’s Serat News:

When the Terrible Organization kneels before a woman! 

The forces that the CIA can bring to accompany it, the most elite of which can be seen with the existence of individuals like Petraeus, who even though the head of an important organization kneeled [when] confronted with an infiltrator and a woman whose spirit of militarism had distanced her from her family for years.

Paula Broadwell for close to ten years cooperated with the American military forces. Even though she has a husband and two children, but she enthralled herself to militarism and was present in countries like Afghanistan following Petraeus who was at the time the American commander in Afghanistan. … If we look at the course of the lives of the past leaders and managers of the CIA it can be seen to be full of these type of people in positions of power with a brutal soul. 

I guess that’s what America gets for allowing women to leave the home without a male relative supervising.