Iran is brazenly sending troops to fight the rebels in Syria, and Congress is fed up with White House policy on Syria.
The Washington Post reports that trained Iranian fighters are now on the ground in Syria to protect the resurgent Assad regime, with the aid of Iran-backed fighters from Hezbollah. Fractured and increasingly weak, the rebels now face Iran’s entire axis of influence and power. This is bad news for the rebels, but it’s also bad news for the Obama administration: it’s pretty clear from this that Iran isn’t about to take a seat at the nuclear negotiating table. By all appearances, Iran’s leaders believe that if Barack Obama is pushed, he retreats.
Congress evidently believes it too. The WSJ reports that bipartisan sentiment has swept the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which yesterday voted 15-3 to arm favored elements of the Syrian opposition. The committee’s will may never make the jump to policy, but the vote sends a message that both Democrats and Republicans have had it with the President’s muddled approach to Syria.
The humanitarian tragedy in Syria has touched many hearts, no doubt, but the real concern in Washington is Iran. Congress is not thrilled by the options in Syria or the ugly nature of the opposition, but both parties in the legislature are clearly worried that the White House’s dithering is making matters with Iran worse. The single most important goal in US foreign policy right now, and the administration’s biggest challenge, is avoiding a scenario in which America must choose between accepting a nuclear Iran and going to war. Yesterday’s vote makes it clear that prominent Senators believe the President’s Syria ambivalence is encouraging Iran’s hardliners and making America’s nightmare scenario more likely, not less.
If it’s really true that when push comes to shove Obama doesn’t budge, then he needs to find a way to let Tehran know, because what he’s doing now isn’t sending that message.
[Obama photo courtesy of Getty Images. Assad photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons]