After the Iran deal was announced, my old boss Leslie Gelb (who is well connected with the Obama administration) confirmed what Michael Doran and I have been writing for a while. “According to top administration officials,” Gelb wrote, “Mr. Obama has always been after something much bigger than capping Iran’s nuclear program, and he got it — the strategic opportunity to begin converting Iran from foe to ‘friend.'”
Such naive hopes should have been dashed by the Supreme Leader’s response to the Iran deal.
“Our policy regarding the arrogant U.S. government will not change,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a televised address on Saturday, while his supporters chanted “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” “We don’t have any negotiations or deal with the U.S. on different issues in the world or the region.”
For good measure, he added, “We will not give up on our friends in the region.” That would be “friends” like Bashar Assad whose forces are now said to be dropping naval mines — the kind designed to destroy warships — on civilian areas. Or like Hezbollah, which is not only fighting to preserve the brutal Assad regime but also stockpiling at least 50,000 missiles aimed at Israel. How many more missiles will Hezbollah be able to afford when it receives its share of Iran’s $100 billion first-year windfall, one wonders?
Yet the Obama administration seems blithely untroubled by evidence – both in rhetoric and action – showing that Iran has no intention of giving up its mantle as the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism in the world. Instead, the U.S. is acting as if Iran is really our de facto ally not only in nuclear arms control but also in fighting terrorism.
The latest evidence of the administration’s misguided faith in the Islamic Republic is its decision to deliver the first four F-16s to Iraq, which it did just before the Iran deal was signed. Thirty-two more F-16s are scheduled to arrive in Iraq eventually. Assuming that these advanced warplanes are not captured by ISIS (as has been the case with many Humvees, MRAPS, and even Abrams tanks that the U.S. has provided to Iraq), they will be operated by an Iraqi regime that has been thoroughly subverted by Iran’s agents and proxies.
The most powerful man in Iraq is not the ineffectual prime minister but rather Gen. Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force, who (in yet another boost for Iranian regional designs) will be taken off the European and U.N. sanctions lists by the terms of the Iran deal. The second most powerful man is probably his close ally, Hadi al-Ameri, the minister of transportation and head of the Badr Corps, the Shiite militia that has become more powerful than the Iraqi armed forces. As a Sunni politician said earlier this year, “Iran now dominates Iraq.”
It is more than a bit shocking that the Obama administration is willing to deliver such advanced aircraft to an Iranian-dominated regime. That makes no sense unless the administration thinks the airplanes will be used to fight ISIS, a battle in which the US and Iran supposedly have a common stake. It may well be that the aircraft will be used to bomb ISIS. Or perhaps they will be used to randomly bomb Sunni population centers, as Assad’s aircraft do on a daily basis in Syria.
Whatever the case, of one thing we can be sure: The aircraft will further increase the power not of Iraq’s moderate Sunnis, Kurds, or even Shiites, but rather the power of the Iranian-backed radicals who are in de facto control in Iraq. The aircraft could even wind up in Iranian hands, allowing Iran to get a head-start on breaking the arms embargo that is due to expire in no more than five years anyway.
From the American standpoint, that is about as self-defeating a strategy as it possible to imagine. As I’ve argued repeatedly, any increase in Iranian power actually redounds to the benefit of ISIS, al-Qaeda, and other Sunni radicals who can then posture as defenders of their communities against “Persian” aggression. We should be arming and supporting real and potential partners such as the Kurds and the Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. Instead, we are assisting Iran in extending its growing empire.
Even if Congress can’t stop the Iranian nuclear deal, it should stop further F-16 deliveries to Iraq as long as Iran continues to dominate in Baghdad.