Analyst: Trump administration has not yet stopped an Iran on the march

by WorldTribune Staff, November 21, 2017

The Obama administration, via the nuclear deal, opened the door for Iran’s march toward “erecting a new empire” in the Middle East and the Trump administration has not gone far enough to stop it, an analyst wrote.

“The pace of Iran’s imperial project is now accelerating,” Ilan Berman, senior vice president of the D.C.-based American Foreign Policy Council, wrote in a Nov. 20 analysis for The Washington Times.

Iran is now reportedly planning a permanent military presence in Syria.

Iran has been on the march in the region “for some time,” Berman noted. “Already three years ago, the contours of Iran’s regional ambitions were coming into focus. With the seizure of Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, by the country’s Iranian-supported Houthi rebels in the fall of 2014, the Islamic Republic of Iran could effectively claim control of four Arab regional capitals (including Beirut, Damascus and Baghdad).”

Teheran is now reportedly planning a permanent military presence in Syria “as part of its partnership with the regime of Bashar Assad,” Berman wrote. “In Lebanon, working via its chief terrorist proxy, Hizbullah, the Islamic Republic has become so dominant in national politics that it prompted Saudi Arabia to force the resignation of the country’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, earlier this month.

“Meanwhile in Iraq, Iran’s support for the hashd al-shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces), the powerful Shi’ite militias that now dominate the country’s Ministry of Interior, has made it a key stakeholder in (and the most likely winner of) the country’s national elections next year. And in Yemen, the expanding power of the Houthis, and the threat that they pose to neighboring Saudi Arabia as well as to American forces in the Gulf, has had everything to do with growing political and military support from Teheran.”

What has made all this possible? “A large portion of the blame rests with the 2015 nuclear deal concluded between Iran and the P5+1 powers,” Berman wrote. “That agreement proffered enormous economic benefits to the Islamic Republic in hopes that, over time, it would lead to a moderation of the Iranian regime. Instead, the opposite has happened. The extensive sanctions relief built into the deal has provided Iran’s ailing economy a much-needed fiscal shot in the arm, and freed up funds that Iran has poured into its proxy forces and its military modernization efforts.”

Berman continued: “The United States does not yet have an answer to Iran’s growing imperial impulse. In his Oct. 13 speech, President Trump promised a new, ‘comprehensive’ strategy to curtail the contemporary threat posed by the Islamic Republic. But such an approach is not yet in evidence. To the contrary, recent U.S. efforts in the Middle East have actually helped to fuel Teheran’s adventurism.”

The Trump administration has “spent even less time figuring out what, precisely, we can do to prevent the Islamic State’s decline from becoming a boon for Teheran, both in Syria and in the broader region.”

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