You will not hear many of the country’s leaders admit the gravity of their current situation, but in private Khamenei has stressed the urgency of “winning” the war in Syria. If Assad falls, according to the supreme leader, Hezbollah is likely doomed, both in Syria and Lebanon. For many years, Nasrullah and his minions played a double-track game in Lebanon, serving as both a powerful army and a wealthy network of social services. But now, with thousands of them killing fellow Arabs in Syria, they are increasingly seen as an alien force, the long arm of Shi’ite Iran in the suffering body of the Sunnis. If they are defeated in Syria, their Lebanese enemies will turn on them.
To pull our geopolitical telescope one notch back, the same grim future awaits the Iranian regime. Khamenei knows that most of his people hate him, and he fears that an Iranian defeat in Syria will encourage those Iranians to turn on him and his failed regime.
Which brings us to the sad subject of the humiliating behavior of President Obama, who, according to Defense Secretary Panetta, vetoed a proposal to support the saner elements of the Syrian opposition–which might have brought down Assad and set in motion a crisis in Iran–and sent his buffoonish vice president abroad to beg the Iranians to talk to us. Leading with his behind, as is his wont, Obama received a swift public kick from the supreme leader. And yes, Khamenei’s reported dismissal of the very idea of talking to the Americans was a deception (as you know, having read it here first, there have been secret negotiations with the Obama crowd even before the 2008 elections), but it was both predictable and richly deserved.
His back against the wall, Khamenei is going all out to increase Iranian power where he can, and that means Iraq, Africa and Yemen, and of course Egypt. Were you surprised to read that the French found Islamists in Mali training Nigerian terrorists? Are you wondering why Egyptians don’t need visas to visit Iran? Clue: some of them will get special training.
And what is Obama doing about all this? He’s retreating. We’re down to one carrier group in the Gulf.
As I keep asking, if you wanted to design a policy to favor the success of our enemies and the despair of our friends (not just in the Middle East), how would your policy differ from what we’ve got now?
The war is on, and we are in full retreat. And the tandem of Kerry, Hagel and Brennan love it.