Michael Swartz / March 13, 2015

Countering Iran’s Newfound Influence

The Saudis aren’t waiting around on Obama.

Despite the stirring words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to a joint session of Congress and the letter signed by 47 Republican Senators reminding Iran that any nuclear deal with the Obama administration is non-binding unless Congress approves it, nations around the Middle East are now acting as if a nuclear Iran is a fait accompli.

Moreover, where the United States once acted as a counterbalance in the region by our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, we’re now forced to admit Iran’s lead role in fighting ISIL in Iraq is, as Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey put it, “a positive thing.” In fact, it’s the consequence of Barack Obama’s unwillingness to again put “boots on the ground” in Iraq.

Iran is having a far easier time virtually taking over Iraq now than it did in an unsuccessful war during the 1980s. As The Wall Street Journal notes, Iran’s latest military excursion into fighting ISIL in Iraq could eventually win them a “Shiite arc of power” stretching from Tehran to the Mediterranean through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Worried that a nuclear Iran will soon come to pass and concerned about Tehran’s influence in a recent coup in neighboring Yemen, Saudi Arabia found its own nuclear sponsor by recently signing a memorandum of understanding with South Korea for a feasibility study of building two nuclear reactors in the kingdom. Seeing that the Saudis are awash with oil and knowing they have vowed to “match the nuclear capabilities Iran is allowed to maintain as part of any final agreement reached with world powers,” it’s crystal clear to all but those unwilling to see that the Iranian deal opens the door to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, just as Netanyahu warned earlier this month.

We’ve heard statements that the deal with Iran is non-binding, or that the mullahs are much more moderate than in the past. But in that region of the world, talk is cheap and actions speak most clearly. The lack of leadership and willingness to throw away our hard-won advantages gained over the last decade told the Saudis all they needed to know about where America stands these days.

President George W. Bush assigned Iran to the “axis of evil,” but Obama believes Iran can negotiate in good faith. Perhaps we can self-correct this line of thought in the next election, but it’s plain the Saudis don’t want to take that chance.

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