Donald Trump has a name for everything and everyone, from Crooked Hillary to Little Rocket Man, who for a time became his best friend. Will he call the next region-wide conflagration in the Middle East, when it breaks out, Obama’s War?
If he hasn’t thought of that already, he should start considering it now. Because the catastrophic policies of our former president have emboldened the Islamic state of Iran and enabled it to threaten the United States and our allies militarily in ways never before possible.
When Obama took office in January 2009, he inherited a strong U.S. military and diplomatic posture across the Middle East.
The U.S.-Israel strategic relationship was at its peak, with the Bush White House openly supporting Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s latest attempt to stop Hamas terror in Gaza.
The U.S. enjoyed a close relationship with a secular Turkey, that itself had strong ties to Israel.
Egypt was at peace, Qaddafi had come into the Western camp and abandoned terrorism and its nuclear weapons program, and the insurgency in Iraq had been crushed.
Al Qaeda truly was “on the run,” while Iran was beginning to feel the crunch of international sanctions over its previously covert nuclear weapons program.
Obama succeeded in reversing every one of these strong U.S. positions, treating Islamic Iran as a friend and Israel as an enemy while promoting the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood and its terrorist spawn.
And while President Trump has taken great strides to reverse the enormous damage to our strategic posture Obama caused, fighting his way out of the spider’s web of Iran deal restrictions Obama enacted against the United States has taken nearly two years, time the Iranian regime has put to good use.
Iran today can bracket Israel with more than 150,000 rockets and guided missiles from the North and the South. That’s more than twenty times what it had available during the 2006 war. In addition to its proxies – Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the recently formed Golan Liberation Brigade in Syria – Iran now enjoys a “land bridge” directly linking it through Iraq and Syria to Israel’s northern border.
Terror chief Qais al Khazali, known for his attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq, officially opened the land bridge by leading a military convoy from Iraq into Southern Lebanon in December 2017, where he did a stand-up for an Iranian-backed television network while surveying Israel from the Lebanese side of the border.
Khazali was acting on orders from Quds Force terror-meister, Qassem Suleymani, and met up in Beirut with Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah before heading to the South.
At the same time, the Iranians and their local minions have been burrowing tunnels into Israel from Lebanon that the IDF began targeting last week.
From its bases in Yemen, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps has lobbed missiles at the Saudi capitol, Riyadh, and at oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley forced the media to acknowledge these aggressive Iranian actions by unveiling Iranian missile fragments at a press conference at Andrews Air Force base exactly one year ago.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has now revealed that the ballistic missile Iran test-fired last week was capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads to targets as far away as Europe. Even the Europeans finally realize that the Iran deal did nothing to restrain Iran’s nuclear weapons development or tame its aggressive behavior. It was not the U.S. but France that convened the UN Security Council to condemn the Iranian test.
In a nutshell, Iran today is poised to wreak havoc across the Middle East and beyond with military and strategic capabilities it did not possess a decade ago, including the ability to target U.S. aircraft carriers with ground-based missiles.
Short of U.S. military force, the sole limiting factor on Iran’s actions will be the position of Russian President Vladmir Putin. Will Putin seek to restrain Iran? Or give the Iranian regime free reign?
This is one reason why it is so important for the U.S. President to maintain an open channel of communications to the Kremlin, meeting with Putin, say, at G-20 summit meetings and one-on-one.
Why do you think the anti-Israel Left is so eager to hog-tie President Trump in Russia witch hunt investigations, forcing him to downscale relations with the Russians to the point that the two leaders no longer talk, at least not in public? Because they actually favor a strong Iran and see it and Russia as constraints on the evil United States. As Obama put it in his address to the UN General Assembly in September 2016, “We’ve bound our power to international laws and institutions.”
Russia signaled a strategic shift in its position toward a potential Iranian-led regional war on September 17, when a Syrian air defense crew downed a Russian Ilyushin-20 spy plane over Syrian air space, killing all fourteen Russian crewmen on board.
Putin could have called it a “tragic accident,” which indeed it was. Instead, he blamed Israel for the attack.
Until then, Israel enjoyed a special relationship with Russia when it came to Syria. The IDF had a hot line to the Russian defense ministry, which it used to give a heads up before Israeli air strikes against Iranian positions inside Syria. The result: not a single Russia missile was ever fired at an IDF fighter jet.
When a particularly large strike was in the offing, Prime Minister Netanyahu would fly to Moscow to brief Putin ahead of time. With Putin’s green light, Israel then decimated IRGC and Hezbollah positions.
All of that changed after September 17.
Today, Putin refuses to meet with Netanyahu and the Russian military has rejected Israeli efforts to deconflict its operations in Syria with the Russians.
Last month, Russia turned over operational control of its sophisticated S-300⁄400 air defense batteries in Syria to the Syrian military, a clear sign that restraint toward IDF fighter jets was over.
On November 29, Israeli showed that it takes these moves seriously, launching its first-ever major strike on Iranian Quds Force position inside Syria using surface-to-surface missiles and long-range artillery. By using unmanned weapons, Israel avoided the possibility that Syrian air defense batteries could shoot down an IDF jet or that Israel might inadvertently kill a Russian military advisor.
After that attack, Netanyahu met in Brussels with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, where the two pledged to work in tandem to contain Iranian “aggression.”
“As we have been warning for some time, Iran’s missile testing and missile proliferation is growing. We are accumulating risk of escalation in the region if we fail to restore deterrence,” Pompeo said.
Taken as a whole, I believe Iran actually welcomes U.S. and Israeli military action, now that Russia has made clear it will no longer restrain Iran. Seen from Tehran, they have many cards to play, including the activation of Iran’s vast underground terror networks in North America and Europe and an ability to target U.S. military bases in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the region.
Successive U.S. administrations have a bad track record of holding the Islamic state of Iran accountable for its aggression. We never responded to the 1983 attack that killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon, nor did we hit Iran for its direct material involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.
While Team Trump has reimposed sanctions and escalated the rhetoric, it has yet to take military action against Iran’s Islamic regime. But when that happens, make no mistake: the United States will be fighting Obama’s war.