Now that the last U.S. troops have withdrawn from Iraq, the question of how to deal with Iran’s aggression and its drive to develop a nuclear weapon remains less than clear. At the White House meeting on Dec. 12 between President Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, only passing recognition was given to these two issues.
Mr. Obama warned Iran not to meddle in Iraq. I am sure the fanatic mullahs will view the president’s warning as just another hollow gesture. The Iranian rulers know that when they directly confront the United States, they have nothing to fear because our leaders have shown they lack the political will to respond. Regretfully, this has included every administration from President Carter’s to Mr. Obama’s.
The political tenure of Mr. al-Maliki’s regime is dependent on his main ally, the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who spends most of his time in Iran. One of the key conditions for his support, as dictated by Iran, was that there would be no U.S. military remaining in Iraq after Dec. 31. Furthermore, the Hezbollah-trained cleric has declared U.S. Embassy personnel as an “occupation force” that Iraq rightly should attack. So much for democracy in Iraq. How comforting.
After the U.S. has suffered more than 4,400 troop fatalities and tens of thousands injured, plus expending almost $1 trillion, why have we not been able to negotiate future arrangements with Iraq that better serve U.S. interests? The answer lies with Mr. al-Maliki’s and President Obama’s agenda.
Mr. al-Maliki’s uncooperative actions should come as no surprise. He fled Iraq on July 16, 1979, and spent most of his exile for 24 years in Iran and Syria as a “guest” of the regimes. Mr. al-Maliki has been in the service of the Dawa Islamic Party since his college days in Iraq. The Dawa Party was an organization of secret military cells with close links to the fanatical revolutionary regime in Iran. As a political officer for Dawa, Mr. al-Maliki developed close ties with the terrorist group Hezbollah and particularly with Iran. We can expect Mr. al-Maliki to do just enough to keep our dollars flowing.
Not surprisingly, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has said he has no confidence in Mr. al-Maliki. The king further stated, “I don’t trust this man. He is an Iranian agent.” He has opened the door for Iranian influence in Iraq. It is interesting to note that in 2007, then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Carl Levin, plus several other U.S. politicians, called for Mr. al-Maliki’s removal from office. Yet as secretary of state, Mrs. Clinton, along with the rest of the Obama administration, ignored Mr. al-Maliki’s stealing of the election in 2009 from pro-Western former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Any other outcome would not have served Mr. Obama’s engagement agenda.
Mr. Obama’s engagement policy with our sworn enemies, more accurately described as “appeasement,” has weakened U.S. credibility and influence throughout the Middle East and elsewhere. The administration’s Arab Spring political tactics have been a disaster. Political factions representing both the Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood have gained commanding positions in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. In Syria, the administration has failed to back the pro-Western opposition forces. In 2009, Mr. Obama also failed to support the “Green Revolution” in Iran because, he stated, it would be “counterproductive” for the United States “to be seen as meddling” in Iran’s domestic affairs. What nonsense.
When Muslim Brotherhood front representatives are brought in to provide advice to our military and government agencies, red flags should go up. This would have been like having KGB agents advise our government on how to combat the old Soviet Union. When this action is combined with the Obama administration’s repeated directives prohibiting the use of terms such as “Islamic terrorism,” “Islamist” and “jihadist to describe radical Islam, one easily could conclude that we have a pro-Islamist administration in Washington.
Nonetheless, we still must deal with Iran’s unrelenting progress toward achieving nuclear-weapon capability. With the apocalyptic mindset of the fanatic mullahs, containment is not an option. Regime change is the only solution. Even though the Green Revolution was crushed in 2009, there are some encouraging signs that the anti-regime opposition forces are still alive. According to recent reports, there has been a fivefold increase in the number of explosions at Iranian pipelines and refineries. The massive explosions at Isfahan and the Bedganet air base where Gen. Hassan Tibrani Moghaddam was killed and about 180 Shabab-3 ballistic missiles were destroyed was encouraging.
While these are helpful signs, much more needs to be done. The recent sacking of the United Kingdom’s embassy in Tehran by the goons from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Basij paramilitary force has helped unite Europe. The United Kingdom has imposed sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. We should support that move by:
c Imposing sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank.
c Supporting the United Kingdom’s call for a European embargo on Iranian oil. Europe buys about 25 percent of Iran’s oil exports, but that represents just 5 percent of Europe’s oil imports. We should broker a deal with Saudi Arabia to fill this gap to maintain oil price stability.
c Encouraging the French to cut off satellite service to Iran. Iran’s TV networks are broadcast through the French-owned Eutelsat.
c Covertly assisting anti-regime forces in continuing to sabotage Iran’s critical installations as well as nuclear installations.
c Refining our plans for strikes on Iran to include not only its nuclear installations, but also military targets in order to assist opposition forces when they rise up to overthrow the regime. The fear that the general population would rally around the rogue regime is unfounded.
Finally, we need to actively support the opposition forces in Syria to rid Iran of a key ally.
By Retired Adm. James A. Lyons, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.