If only the U.S. government would merely do nothing in the Middle East, instead of arming and training our enemies.
There’s been much focus on Trump’s decision to decertify the nuclear deal with Iran and re-impose sanctions on the Islamic republic, as well as its terrorist arm — the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC). While this is a welcome development, there is still no indication that Trump will terminate the actual agreement.
But even more disturbing, as my colleague Jordan Schachtel has observed, is the fact that the Trump administration is continuing the “unspoken” Iran deal from the Obama administration — supporting Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, even against pro-Western allies. Now, with the Baghdad-led Shiite coalition campaign against the Kurds in Kirkuk, a move that is actively being directed by IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani, Trump is confronted with the ultimate time for choosing: Will he continue the policies of helping Iranian proxies in Iraq or finally end the Iraq charade and only support the Kurds?
Iran is the problem, not ISIS
As Jordan and I have reported for the past few months, the Trump administration wrongly regards ISIS as the top threat in the region, even though the group is facing permanent collapse in Syria and Iraq and has lost control of its capital, Raqqa. As such, in fighting ISIS, we are “incidentally,” in the words of the U.S. commander in Iraq, Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, helping Iran and its proxies win ground held by the former Islamic State. This has allowed Iran, with the direction of the IRGC-led Shiite collations and militias, to create a hegemonic corridor from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea.
The most glaring problem with our foreign policy is that the failed military leaders, some of whom are now in top civilian positions, continue to support the Iranian puppet government in Baghdad under the false notion that we won the Iraq war and secured an ally in the former capital. We continue to spend billions of dollars training and equipping Iraq’s failed military. While that military failed to defeat ISIS, the Kurds fought ISIS almost all on their own. Now that the Kurds are winning back land from the Islamic State, Turkey, Iran, and the Baghdad government, all strategic enemies of our regional interests, are ganging up on the Kurds. Yet, our government continues to perpetuate this myth of a unified Iraq and the Baghdadi government as an ally, even though it is being controlled by our sworn enemy. To that end, we continue arming the wrong side while funneling weapons to the Kurds only through Baghdad, which is like having the foxes guard the henhouse.
Yesterday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered his forces to attack Kurdish-held oil fields and a military base outside of the critical city of Kirkuk. The salient fact for American policy-makers is that the attack was coordinated by Shiite militias led by IRGC commander Qassem Soleimani. Even worse, they used U.S. Humvees and tanks, and many of the soldiers were trained by our military. These same Iranian-backed militias, who fled like cowards in the face of ISIS, are now using our aid to attack positions held by the Kurds who actually stood up to ISIS.
What was the U.S. response?
This is simply incredible. Our government is living in an alternative reality. This is reminiscent of “Baghdad Bob” in 2003, when Saddam Hussein’s information minister insisted U.S. troops were being defeated even as they were entering Baghdad. ISIS is no longer the problem; the Kurds are defeating them; yet the government we are supporting to fill that vacuum is backed by Iran. It would be the equivalent of supporting the Soviet Union to capture more of Germany after Hitler was gone. Moreover, the State Department is using the same moral equivalence between the two sides that it did when the PLO attacked the Israelis during the intifada of last decade — in other words, an immoral equivalence.
Amazingly, the State Department is saying that this was simply a misunderstanding!
We have given billions of dollars to the Iraqi Shiite-dominated forces, much of which has been wasted, according to a new inspector general’s report. Now those weapons are going to advance the cause of the IRGC, a group we just sanctioned as terrorists. This is similar to the spectacle of the State Department listing Hezbollah leaders as terrorists and declaring them the gravest threat, but then arming their proxies!
Does that make the State Department a massive funder of terrorism? This was essentially the argument Ted Cruz made during the Obama administration, much to the consternation of Mitt Romney, but it was true. Sadly, this appears true now even with a change in leadership.
Even more tragic, these Iranian-backed Shiites are ethnically cleansing the Christians and building Iranian infrastructure in the homeland of the Assyrians and Yazidis. It has now been confirmed that the U.S. soldier killed near Tikrit earlier this month was hit by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP). These have been notoriously planted by Iranian-backed militias. EFPs supplied by Iran to the Shiite militias in Iraq killed hundreds and wounded thousands of soldiers last decade.
Trump can and must change course immediately
Trump has just one opportunity to change course, and he must do so quickly. It’s time to end the bailout of Iran and its proxies the same way he rightfully ended the bailout of Obamacare. Our Iraq policy has been the Obamacare of foreign policy. One failure begets another, which engenders more policies that bail out the original failures and precipitate new problems. The only way to end this vicious cycle is to terminate support for Baghdad and finally recognize that we have lost much of Iraq to Iran over a decade ago. Instead, we must support a stable Kurdistan and allow the Kurds to hold as much ground as possible so that we don’t continue owning every Sunni insurgency that grows as a result of the Iranian hegemony in the Sunni areas that we help secure.
It's time for Trump to tap a conservative ally to audit all of our foreign policy alliances, foreign aid, train-and-equip programs, and military interventions and question the validity of each one of them with the intention of forging a true “America first” foreign policy.
Although the nuances of the Middle East seem to be lost on Trump, who undoubtedly doesn’t want to help Iran succeed, here is a simple list of dos and don’ts he’d be wise to follow, lest his presidency become the third term of Obama.
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Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.