Amid clear and increasing evidence of an Iranian move to destabilize the Middle East for its own advantage, the Obama administration has not only ignored Saudi calls to step up and perform America’s traditional role as the guarantor of stability, they have begun to warn the Saudis not to “provoke” Iran. The result has so far been to embolden Iran, and especially the hard-line elements in its regime. This is why, as IranTruth reported yesterday, the Saudis have turned to Pakistan — currently the Islamic world’s only nuclear power — to try to play the stabilizing role that the Obama administration is refusing to play.
Tony Badran, a Middle East expert at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, argues that the Obama administration has gone so far as to take sides with Iran by describing Saudi Arabia’s execution of radical Shi’ite cleric Nimir al-Nimir as “a provocation.” Nimir had encouraged the breakup of Saudi Arabia and the secession of the eastern part of the country, where the Shi’a population of Saudi Arabia is concentrated. To treat this as a provocation against Iran, or against Shi’a Islam, is to refuse to recognize Saudi Arabia’s legitimate interest in enforcing its own laws and protecting its territorial integrity.
Iran went too far in attacking the Saudi embassy, Badran says. “Attacks on Saudi diplomats are attacks on the US order in the Middle East,” Badran said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s long-time status as a major US ally. “By not stepping up to defend that order, the US has essentially given Iran permission to try and tear it down.”
Meanwhile, Jay Solomon writing at the Wall Street Journal points out that the Iran deal has only empowered the hard-line elements in the regime to conduct a vicious repression. IranTruth has been reporting on this aspect of the Iran deal all along, but the WSJ piece highlights the importance of Obama’s failure to reach out to the 2009 “Green revolution” opponents of these hard liners in damaging Iran’s internal politics.
But the ranks of reformists in Iran have been depleted. Many activists are angry at the Obama administration for failing to support them six years ago in a rebuff that hasn’t been previously reported.
Iranian opposition leaders secretly reached out to the White House in the summer of 2009 to gauge Mr. Obama’s support for their “green revolution,” which drew millions of people to protest the allegedly fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad….
Mr. Obama and his advisers decided to maintain silence in the early days of the 2009 uprising. The Central Intelligence Agency was ordered away from any covert work to support the Green Movement either inside Iran or overseas, said current and former U.S. officials involved in the discussions…
After a week of demonstrations, Iran’s security forces went on to kill as many as 150 people and jail thousands of others over the following months, according to opposition and human rights groups…. Some of Mr. Obama’s closest advisers, including former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said in retrospect the U.S. should have backed the Green Movement. “If we could do it again, I would give different counsel,” said Dennis Ross, Mr. Obama’s top Mideast adviser during his first term.
What has happened instead is that the process of negotiation into which the Obama administration invested so much prestige and hope has come to serve as handcuffs against effective American policy. Aaron David Miller, an expert at the Wilson Center, put it this way. “The Iranians hold the Obama legacy in their hands. We are constrained and we are acquiescing to a certain degree to ensure we maintain a functional relationship with the Iranians.”
“The key source of Saudi anxiety is Iran,” the Eurasia Group has told its clients. “Soon to be free of sanctions, Iran’s economy will strengthen, and its government will have more money to spend in support of regional clients.”
Unfortunately for President Obama, the Iranians will not in fact preserve a positive legacy for him. They have not signed the agreement that he made such a show of signing in the fall. Rather, they passed a separate law that commits to the end of the nuclear weapons program of Israel, not of Iran. They have committed publicly, and at every level of government, to defying the United Nations Security Council ruling that endorsed the Iran deal. No one has signed this deal but President Obama himself. He is only shaking his own hand, in agreement with himself, but without any other partners.