In South Coast Today, Lawrence Haas of the American Foreign Policy Council points out that the leadership of the Iranian regime has only expanded its anti-Western, anti-Israeli rhetoric in the midst of nuclear negotiations with the US, in contrast to President Obama’s pronouncements that the diplomatic process might prompt Iran to open up.
Haas uses the Iranian supreme leader’s declarations of “death to America” to conclude that a nuclear deal with this kind of a regime “makes no sense” and depends on a highly dubious expectation of Iran’s trustworthiness. Haas adds that the situation is made much worse by the various concessions that have been provided to Iran, including the ability to keep most of its nuclear infrastructure in place and the ability to continue research on advanced enrichment centrifuges.
“Now,” Haas writes, “a final deal that puts Iran on the cusp of nuclear weaponry while providing it a huge revenue windfall will leave the United States with far less leeway to protect its interests and its allies in the region.”
But an editorial by Tony Badran in Now Lebanon goes much further, suggesting that the Obama administration is not just failing to preserve its leverage to protect its allies, but is actively giving it away. Badran provocatively accuses the American president of “siding with Iran” in the midst of the crisis in Yemen brought on by the ascendancy of Iran-backed Houthi militias, which are now fighting Sunni extremist challengers and also forces loyal to ousted President Hadi and backed by Saudi Arabia.
Badran levies this charge in spite of the fact that the US offered logistical support to the bombing campaign against the Houthis by a Saudi-led coalition and also dispatched warships to shadow and Iranian convoy trying to deliver arms to the Houthis.
Badran suggests that these efforts constituted the bare minimum support for Saudi confrontation of Iran, and that they were effectively counterbalanced by US efforts to prevent the Saudis from expanding that confrontation while engaging in back-channel talks with Tehran to bring about a ceasefire. He supports this conclusion by noting that Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian predicted the ceasefire hours before it happened, suggesting that he knew something the Saudis did not.
If both of these editorial pieces are correct, they illustrate an unusually self-defeating US foreign policy, with the Obama administration offering not only diplomatic concessions to a hostile government, but also helping it to avoid confrontational moves from US allies and to further expand influence that could pose a greater challenge to US interests in the future.
Already in Yemen the Houthi have removed a major foothold for the US in its fight against some of the worst Sunni extremist groups. And in other parts of the region the Iranian presence has driven recruitment both for Shiite militant allies and for Sunni adversaries, deepening the sectarian conflict overall. Still, according to Badran, Obama has been encouraging Iran to remain as a major stakeholder in Yemen, in keeping with his statements foreseeing Iran as a “very successful regional power.”