National security adviser H.R. McMaster and Defense Secretary James Mattis are known advocates for the nuclear deal with the terror state of Iran. But many also assumed that they at least sought a departure from the Obama-era strategy of allowing Iran to pursue its regional and global ambitions with full force.
McMaster purged the Iran hawks from his National Security Council. However, this effort was mostly written off as the national security adviser wanting to bring in his own people, rather than a clash of ideologies.
Mattis has publicly stated that Iran is the world’s “biggest state sponsor of terrorism,” leading analysts to infer that as Pentagon chief, he would attempt to quash Iranian efforts to take over half of the Middle East.
Since the election of Donald Trump as president, Iran has doubled down on its anti-U.S. posture.
Iran continues to assert dominance over Iraq. Its own fighters and proxy units have infiltrated much of Syria. Tehran resumed its aggressive funding and arming of Hezbollah and Hamas. In the Gulf, its warships continue to recklessly confront U.S. vessels. And Iran-backed fighters and armed drones are targeting U.S. soldiers on the battlefield.
So what are our respected cabinet officials doing about the increasing Iranian threat? Apparently, they’ve decided to ignore it.
An insightful report from Reuters Monday night specifically names Mattis and McMaster as the cabinet officials who oppose taking a tough stance against Iran’s regional ambitions.
“Mattis and McMaster, as well as the heads of the U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Forces Command, have opposed allowing U.S. commanders in Syria and Iraq to react more forcefully to provocations by the IRGC, Hezbollah and other Iranian-backed Shiite militias,” the Reuters report said. “The advisers are concerned that more permissive rules of engagement would divert U.S. forces from defeating the remnants of Islamic State, they said.”
The Reuters report, however, leaves open the possibility that President Trump may overrule the restrictions recommended by Mattis and McMaster and allow our commanders in the field to target Iran’s proxies and its support for jihadi militias.
By singling out ISIS and ignoring the rest of America’s national security threats, Mattis and McMaster have apparently endorsed the Obama administration’s “balancing act” strategy that gives Tehran unchecked dominance over the land from its borders to the Mediterranean Sea.
Allowing Iran to conquer and hold territory and encroach further to the west puts our allies in Israel and in the Levant and the Gulf on high alert. By only focusing on ISIS, the U.S.-led coalition has shifted the balance of power in Iran’s favor. The “only ISIS” strategy has allowed Iran to station troops right across from Israel’s territory in the Golan Heights.
Defeating ISIS is a noble and worthy endeavor, but doing so without a grand strategy that holds Iran in check is hazardous and detrimental to U.S. national security interests. Iran is hell-bent on not only dominating the region, but also acquiring a nuclear weapon. By opposing action against Iran-backed forces, Mattis and McMaster are tying the hands of our commanders in the field, which was a primary complaint leveled against President Obama’s military strategy, one that President Trump campaigned on reversing.
Jordan Schachtel is the national security correspondent for Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @JordanSchachtel.