Iran, Hezbollah, and Obama's Double Betrayal of Syria
by Stephen Schwartz
The Obama administration's appeasement of Iran over its nuclear weapons program is intertwined with its appeasement of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad. For Obama, the red line in Syria was the Al-Assad regime's use of chemical weapons, not his murdering, at this stage, upwards of 120,000 people. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov avowed that Syria would divest itself of chemical weapons. But Syria's heavy tanks, artillery, and air force, which have done most of the killing in the country, were not on the table, nor was the criminal role that Iran and Hezbollah have played in the Syrian conflict.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 2118 provided a timeline allowing Damascus to "complete the elimination of all chemical weapons material and equipment in the first half of 2014." That would give Al-Assad nine months more to evade the supposed accord, while his forces continue to slaughter the population. Again, Iran, and Hezbollah were nowhere mentioned in the resolution.
The Geneva II conference, scheduled for January 22, is supposed to bring together Syria's two warring sides, excluding, said French foreign minister Laurent Fabius, Al-Assad himself and radical Islamists. Damascus rejected the prospect of a "Geneva II" without Al-Assad. "The era of colonialism has gone forever," said a Syrian official. "What they need is to wake up from their dreams; otherwise, if they insist on these delusions, there is no need for them to attend [the] Geneva II conference."
The White House celebrates an Iranian "interim nuclear deal" that, like the Syrian chemical weapons deal, ignored Iran and Hezbollah's intervention in Syria. Predictably, Al-Assad was thrilled by the outcome of Iran's Geneva performance. Al-Assad, official Syrian media crowed, "saw that Iran's achievement will reflect on Syria due to the strategic relation between the two countries. President [Hassan] Rouhani, for his part, reaffirmed Iran's standing by Syria."
Rouhani, commenting on the nuclear negotiations charade, imitated the cocky posture of Al-Assad. In an interview with the London Financial Times, Rouhani insisted that dismantling of Iranian nuclear facilities was not to be considered. As with the Syrian "red-line," the Iranian nuclear parley involved token verbiage without evidence of honesty from Tehran. Rouhani described the so-called "interim agreement" with Iran as no more than a "test" of a new U.S.-Iranian relationship.
Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf Arab states find themselves aligned informally with Israel, which can protect itself from Iranian aggression. But Saudi Arabia has its eyes also on the carnage in Syria.
The Obama administration "discovered" that as the Syrian crisis wore on, jihadists (mainly foreign, and hated by Syrians, including by most anti-government rebels) entered the country to fight Al-Assad. The administration uses amorphous information about the al Qaeda-linked agitators in Syria (and Iraq) as a pretext for inaction.
By contrast, more disciplined and better-armed Iranian-organized terrorists, in the form of Hezbollah and the Qods Force, are present in Syria, and have proudly assisted Al-Assad in maintaining his power.
It is doubtful that the Obama administration will ever decide that enough Syrians have died to justify action against Al-Assad and that Tehran must cease its support for the regime in Damascus. American legislators should reject both the masquerade with Syria and that with Iran.