Now that Obama is out of office, the Washington Post is beginning to look at the consequences of his policies. One of the biggest: Iran is now a regional superpower, but still as hostile to the U.S. and its allies as ever.
Iran now stands at the apex of an arc of influence stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean, from the borders of NATO to the borders of Israel and along the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. It commands the loyalties of tens of thousands in allied militias and proxy armies that are fighting on the front lines in Syria, Iraq and Yemen with armored vehicles, tanks and heavy weapons. They have been joined by thousands of members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, Iran’s most prestigious military wing, who have acquired meaningful battlefield experience in the process.
For the first time in its history, the Institute for the Study of War noted in a report last week, Iran has developed the capacity to project conventional military force for hundreds of miles beyond its borders. “This capability, which very few states in the world have, will fundamentally alter the strategic calculus and balance of power within the Middle East,” the institute said.
America’s Sunni Arab allies, who blame the Obama administration’s hesitancy for Iran’s expanded powers, are relishing the prospect of a more confrontational U.S. approach. Any misgivings they may have had about Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric have been dwarfed by their enthusiasm for an American president they believe will push back against Iran.
If only someone had warned that appeasing Iran was a dangerous policy that could backfire horribly…
When Walter Russell Mead testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015, he argued that the Iran Deal shouldn’t be analyzed merely as an arms control agreement or even on its own terms. It needed (and still needs) to be assessed in the context of a broader strategic framework for the Middle East. At that point, it was already clear the Obama Administration’s entire Middle East policy pivoted on the deal. Other American interests (in Syria and Yemen, for instance) were secondary to getting an arms control agreement in place with Iran. The mistake wasn’t so much the narrow deal itself as the fact that the deal was promoted not as part of a strategy, but rather in lieu of one.
The consequences of not paying attention to the big picture are now obvious to all. We’re glad the Washington Post is finally getting it. We just wish they’d done so sooner.