As the Syrian Civil War continues to rage and negotiators meet in Vienna, the AP acknowledges some harsh truths about U.S. policy, which is giving more ground to Iran in Syria:
Searching for a diplomatic path forward, Kerry and other U.S. officials have tamped down demands for Assad’s quick departure and allowed Iran — whom they call the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism — to join the mediation process.
By doing so, Washington has accepted that Tehran can continue wielding influence over Syria, which it has relied on for decades to project power throughout the Middle East. That includes arming anti-Israel and anti-U.S. forces Hamas and Hezbollah, which the U.S. considers terrorist organizations. The shift has occurred although the Obama administration vowed to “redouble” efforts to counter Iran’s regional ambitions.
It’s unclear what the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Mideast rival, are getting in return.
The report goes on to examine the dispute over “terror groups”, with the Iranians and Russians pressing to delegitimize opposition to Iran, and the U.S. and its allies pushing back. But even if the U.S. were to get all it wants there, we’d still be negotiating on Iranian terms: Assad would be staying, and the Mullahs would be getting a say in the future of Syria.
Noting this, Omri Ceren wrote in his morning e-mail that:
[T]he White House [has made] repeated assurances – made from the evening the JCPOA was announced and repeated throughout the summer – promising to “double down” on “pushback” to Iran’s non-nuclear aggression, if only Congress would sign off on the nuclear deal.
Since then Iran has: launched joint Russian-Iranian military operations in Syria in defense of Assad, test-fired a ballistic missile in violation of UN resolutions, convicted American reporter Jason Rezaian on what are broadly considered to be trumped up espionage charges, seized American citizen Siamak Namazi, seized American permanent resident Nizar Zakka, and launched a “surge” of cyberattacks against Americans who work on Iran issues, and repeatedly called for Israel’s annihilation.
But the administration told the Washington Free Beacon earlier this week that it would not pursue new sanctions against Iran. And now the new AP assessment indicates that not only is the Obama administration not pushing back against Iran’s activities, it’s actively integrating Iran into the region in a way that specifically enables Tehran’s “arming anti-Israel and anti-U.S. forces Hamas and Hezbollah.”
So far the record seems to show that rather than marking the end of a policy of regional conciliation of Iran, the nuclear deal is just another step in the attempt to accommodate American policy to Iranian goals. It is also indicative of a retreat in the face of Putin’s thrust into the region. The White House is validating the pre-Deal concerns of its harshest critics, while not making life any easier for itself in the Middle East.