Peace for Our Time – A book review by Bill Evelyn
Not willing to risk another conflict in the Middle East the Obama administration secretly struck a deal with Tehran’s Mullahs.
“In a positive sign, Rouhani’s political allies gained seats in the Iranian parliament in January 2016, after many campaigned on the merits of the nuclear deal. “ “President Obama has told aides that he believes the deal will strengthen moderate leaders such as President Rouhani as the country’s economy improves and reconnects to the West.” When it was all over the United States removed two of Iran’s staunchest enemies (Saddam Hussein and the Taliban/Al-Qaeda), created a new Shia Iraqi government, released billions of dollars of frozen Iranian oil dollars, paid reparations for a long standing law suit, paid ransom for American hostages, and allowed the Mullahs to continue with the enrichment of weapons grade uranium and plutonium. It was a deal specifically made to prevent another United States conflict in the Middle East.
Mr. Soloman is the chief foreign affairs correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and has direct experience of what he writes. Solomon was the first American journalist to uncover the secret meetings between the United States and Iran that took place in Oman. He interviewed Bashir al Assad in his palace, and he led coverage of the nuclear negotiations for the Journal from 2011 through 2015. His book is griping and a must read for all who want to know the truth behind the Iran deal.
The story begins in 2009 shortly after Obama took office. Obama made every attempt to reach out to the Mullahs to normalize relations just as the Bush administration had tried for a decade. The Iran Wars have consumed United States foreign policy since 9/11. The Bush administration tried for years to reach an agreement with Tehran. But, “It was yet another example of how competing factions inside the U.S. government undercut the formation of an Iran policy” during the Bush administration. Factions within the CIA and Pentagon met in Rome (2002) with dissident Iranian leaders to overthrow the Mullahs, while state department officials met in Geneva (2003) to reach a security agreement. Unfortunately in 2003 a bomb ripped through the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia killing over 30 people including nine Americans.
Al Qaeda drove a wedge between the U.S. and Iran guaranteeing there would be no cooperation between their mutual enemy al Qaeda. This was a terrorist attack planned by Saif-al-Adel in Iran and its unclear how much advanced notice Iran had of the attack.
“Among the al Qaeda leaders in Iran were Osama bin Laden’s son Saad and the senior al Qaeda military commander, Saif-al-Adel, according to U.S. officials.” “These Arab operatives didn’t seem to be living openly in Iran, but were being closely monitored by Tehran and kept under some form of house arrest. U.S. officials believed Iran’s leaders were holding the men both as insurance against al Qaeda launching attacks on Iran and as future chips in Tehran’s conflict with the United States. The al Qaeda fighters could simply be released to plot new attacks against the West, if U.S.-Iranian relations deteriorated.”
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 Tehran reached out to the United States and offered assistance to eradicate al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Many in Washington believed Tehran was willing to cooperate with the United States on security issues, at least on its eastern border. Afghanistan had long been a source for the opium that flooded Iran’s markets and produced the world’s largest population of heroin addicts.” General Abdul Reza Shahlai, Deputy Commander Qods Force (Iran’s CIA equivalent) and Gary Berntsen, CIA, met in Afghanistan early after 9/11 to discuss cooperative arrangements. The CIA promised to kill any Qods forces found on the battlefield. Shortly thereafter factions were meeting in Rome with dissidents to overthrow the Mullahs. Another missed opportunity.
Tehran waited anxiously for the U.S. to invade Iraq as Saddam Hussein was another fierce enemy of Tehran. “As the date for the American invasion drew closer, Iraqi intelligence was on high alert. Of particular concern to Baghdad was intelligence showing that leaders of the Badr Corps and SCIRI had been liaising with senior Bush administration officials in Washington, Europe, and the Middle East ahead of the invasion.” Badr Corps and SCIRI operated inside Iraq to perform sabotage during the Iraq-Iran War in the 1980’s and were Arab Shites closely aligned with Tehran. Unknown to the Bush administration Badr Corps and SCIRI would be working to win the hearts-and-minds of the Shite majority within Iraq, while the U.S. was mired in bloody fighting.
Almost immediately after the U.S. invasion of Iraq Tehran began supplying personal goods manufactured in Iran for distribution to Shite villagers. As the U.S. military bled through a bloody civil war with both Sunni and Shite Arabs, Tehran was winning the hearts-and-minds of the Iranian Shite population.
“The Bush administration sought to remake the region into a pro-Western bulwark in response to the extremist threat. But Tehran, Damascus, and their Axis of Resistance weren’t lying down, as evidence in Lebanon. They were going to reshape the region on their own terms. As the battle in Iraq continued, the flow of jihadists and foreign fighters intensified, with the majority coming through Syria under the close watch of the Assad regime.”
Shite insurgent fighters trained and were armed for the conflict in Syria and Bashar al-Assad was facilitating the movement of al Qaeda fighters and suicide bombers across the western border of Iraq. “Assad publicly signaled Syria’s preparation to undermine U.S. military operations in Iraq from the early days of the American buildup to war in 2003.” “Syria’s grand mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, the highest-ranking Sunni Muslim in the country, publicly called for martyrdom operations against coalition forces in Iraq … “Muslims must use all possible means to repel the aggressors including martyr operations … Muslims all over the world must boycott American and British products and those from coalition forces.” As Sunni fighters and suicide bombers (origin of ISIS) flooded into the area they were processed through Damascus International Airport and driven east to the western border of Iraq for training and arming.
“After taking office in 2009, the Obama administration faced the grim reality that U.S. policies in the Mideast over the past decade had significantly strengthened Tehran by eliminating its two biggest regional rivals, the Taliban and Saddam Hussein.” A Jordanian official said; [Iran] “… reconstituted the Persian Empire in just a few years … and the U.S. policies are only helping the Iranians.” Obama and Russia’s Putin eventually agreed on a deal to protect Assad in Syria. Iran’s closest ally was saved by the Parliamentary elections of 2005 that swept Iraqi Shites into power.
Much to the chagrin of the Bush administration the Iraqi parliamentary elections in December of 2005 swept Shiites into power. The new Iraqi government was extremely friendly to Tehran. Tehran was shaping the new Iraq and they insisted all of the Bath Party members be purged from the new Iraqi government. After all it was Saddam’s Bathist government that waged war against Iran in the 1980’s.
The map below (Fig 1) is of the regional territory Iran now controls in the Mideast. The orange area represents the Persian Empire in 500 B.C. the brown shaded area is the countries controlled by Iran. All of Iran, Iraq allied with their Shite government, Syria allied with Bashar al Assad, Lebanon through Hezbollah, and very shortly Yemen allied with the Houthis. The green line represents the Islamic pipeline that runs from the Levant in Syria through Iraq, Pakistan to China. Iran sits on the largest natural gas resources ever discovered the North and South Pars gas fields. The largest South Pars is shared by Iran and Qatar with 1,235×1012 cu ft. or 35,000 km3 recoverable reserves. The North Pars field is claimed solely by Iran with 7.2×1012 cu ft. or 1,340 km3 recoverable reserves. Iran is rich and a new report indicates Iran controls the oil markets in the Middle East as they can produce a barrel of oil for $61.50, while Saudi Arabia, Emirates, and others produce it at $68 per barrel.
“The principle battle line in this Sunni-Shite and Saudi-Iranian conflict has been Syria. Tehran’s unbending support for the Assad regime has fueled the flow of arms to anti –government militias from Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. But it also hastened the emergence of powerful, and radical, Sunni militias such as the Islamic State. This battle has spread to Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Turkey. This rivalry raises the prospects of a nuclear arms race spreading across the Middle East as Saudi Arabia and its Sunni allies seek to match the technologies Iran has been allowed to amass. The costs of the Vienna agreement could only grow, and this Iran deal, rather than calming the world’s most combustible region, risks further enflaming it.”
The Iran wars might just be in a new phase, but you owe it to yourself the time to read Jay Solomon’s new book.