–Fourth, a deep division within the American political class, with unforeseeable consequences.
Most gravely, lots of countries in the region will now conclude that the West, and most assuredly the United States, has thrown in with Iran. They will look at the actions of President Obama and his henchthings, and they will see a pattern: he bailed out of Iraq without even a fig leaf to cover that country’s exposure to Iranian violence, thus forcing Iraqi leaders to cater to Tehran’s wishes; he announced America’s retreat from Afghanistan well in advance of next year’s scheduled withdrawal, thereby exposing Afghan leaders to the same exposure to Iran; he rallied to the side of the Iranian supreme leader in 2009, when the regime was wobbling and millions of Iranians filled the country’s avenues; he abandoned Mubarak and supported the Muslim Brotherhood–favored by Iran–in Egypt; and he repeatedly worked with Iran and Russia to save Assad in Syria (never supported the opposition, did an about-face on his threat to attack when Assad’s use of chemical weapons was too big to ignore).
This agreement seals the Syrian deal with Iran. It is not just about sanctions and nukes. Michael Doran of Brookings has figured it out, after suddenly discovering something he should have known for a long time: that we were conducting secret talks with the regime.
I have long suspected that Obama’s retreat from Syria was prompted, in part, by his desire to generate Iranian goodwill in the nuclear negotiations. The evidence for that case is growing by the day. We now learn, for example, that the administration had opened a bilateral backchannel to Tehran well before the Syria crisis. I can only assume that the president backed away from the use of force against Assad because, in part, he saw the Syria challenge as a subset of the Iranian negotiation.
Readers of this blog knew all that quite a while ago. It now has become even more significant, for Syria is the top priority for Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. He has repeatedly told his top associates in Tehran that Assad’s survival is more important than Khamenei’s own, reminding them that the loss of Syria would threaten the survival of Hezbollah, and the durability of the Iranian campaign in Iraq (where the killing continues at a rate greater than that in Syria). Khamenei and Assad are both strengthened by the Geneva Agreement.
Some evince surprise at Obama’s behavior–why is he helping our greatest enemy? they ask–but there is no excuse for surprise at this point. His all-out pursuit of a deal with Iran was already evident during the presidential campaign of 2008, and he has never deviated from it. His hostility to Israel was also evident very early in his first term (I wrote about it after he’d been in office for less than a year). His support for the Muslim Brotherhood (like his embrace of Turkey’s nutty leader Erdogan) completes the picture: he favors radical Islamists and other evil tyrants, and opposes more moderate, pro-Western autocrats and, above all, the lone Western-style democracy in the region.
Those looking for parallels in his domestic behavior, above all his contempt for the rule of law and most any other rule that threatens to thwart his will, can survey a target-rich environment.
What next? I think we can assume that this “interim agreement” isn’t very temporary, that Iran will behave even more aggressively than before, and that the West will scramble to make as much profit as they can. The fascinating Arab-Israeli alliance will also develop, and the combination of Israeli military power and Arab wealth may prove potent, well beyond anything we can presently conceive.
Finally, the global war against America will intensify. The Iranians believe they’ve got us right where they want us, and that Obama will accept their terms. They think they’ve achieved this by killing Americans and friends of ours, and so they will keep it up. They’re not like us. If the roles had been reversed in Geneva, and they could brandish tough sanctions–and the plausible threat of even more–if we didn’t accept their basic demands (NO enrichment, period), they wouldn’t have made the deal Kerry and Obama concocted. They’d have said what we should have: “Here! have some more sanctions. Then we can talk some more.”