Feb 24, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 23 • By LEE SMITH
Two weeks ago the Treasury Department sanctioned a senior al Qaeda official, Olimzhon Adkhamovich Sadikov, also known as Jafar al-Uzbeki, for facilitating the flow of foreign fighters into Syria. The Levant appears to be ground zero in a struggle between al Qaeda and an Iranian-led axis of terror in a conflict now spreading from the Iraqi desert to the Lebanese coast. The Obama administration believes that in this contest for regional dominance, there are two clear sides and that it is al Qaeda, and not Iran, that constitutes the greatest threat to U.S. national security. Thus the Obama administration’s reluctance to act against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus, lest this give al Qaeda sway in Syria. However, here’s a fact that should give the administration cause to rethink its assessment: Al Qaeda’s Uzbeki is operating out of Iran, with the approval of Iranian authorities.
From Iran’s perspective, backing Uzbeki and his al Qaeda fighters against Assad and Hezbollah and even against its own Revolutionary Guard puts another piece into play on the chessboard. It’s an additional weapon in Tehran’s arsenal. As the 9/11 Commission Report made clear, the Islamic Republic has frequently worked with al Qaeda when it suits Iranian interests. Similarly, Assad, whose forces now battle a resistance that includes al Qaeda fighters, turned Damascus international airport into a transit hub for al Qaeda fighters entering Iraq in the mid-2000s to kill American troops. He also has a long history of using and manipulating Sunni jihadists.
This latest designation comes at a pivotal time for the administration’s regional policy. The White House’s chief strategic goal in the Middle East is to protect the interim nuclear weapons agreement with Tehran in the hope of creating, as Obama told the New Yorker last month, a new geopolitical equilibrium that balances Iran against Saudi Arabia. To get there, Obama needs to keep the Iranians at the negotiating table, not an easy trick given the regime’s volatile, even paranoid, nature.
Obama’s judgment of the clerical regime’s psychology has dictated policy since he first came to the White House. The administration refused to support the Green movement that took to the streets in the wake of Iran’s likely fraudulent June 2009 elections for fear of driving the regime from the negotiating table. Obama ignored the advice of officials who wanted to arm the Syrian rebels and avoided any serious efforts to topple Assad because he believed that this, too, would alienate the Iranians. He resisted Congress’s push to impose sanctions on Iran and has now provided sanctions relief for the same reason—he doesn’t want to get the mullahs mad and risk losing his negotiating partner.
Iran, the White House insists, is not the problem. It can be managed through regular diplomatic and political means—engagement, deterrence, etc. But al Qaeda, a non-state actor, making war from Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq, is another animal altogether. As Director of National Intelligence James Clapper explained in his Senate testimony last month, the administration believes that al Qaeda represents the greatest threat to U.S. national security. According to Clapper, one al Qaeda affiliate in Syria that the administration has designated, Jabhat al-Nusra, even has plans to attack the United States. Unfortunately for the White House, it turns out that Nusra is funded and manned by the Iranian-based al Qaeda network. That is, Obama has tied America’s position in the Middle East to partnering with Iran, which itself has partnered with actors the White House deems the main threat to U.S. national security.
Nonetheless, the White House continues to see the regional conflict simplistically. As Obama puts it, what we’re watching unfold is a sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites in which the United States should avoid taking sides. This is also Iran’s version of the war, promulgated in part to keep the White House on the sidelines. It’s a multipurpose public diplomacy campaign intended also to galvanize Iran’s Shia base across the region and destabilize Sunni-majority regimes. Sectarianism is a significant factor in Middle East conflicts, but the fundamental fact is that Iran is a -revolutionary regime. It means to overturn the regional status quo, the American-backed order of the Middle East, and sideline the United States once and for all. In this effort, al Qaeda, along with Hezbollah and various other Iranian-backed terrorist organizations, can all be useful to Tehran.
For five years now, traditional American allies like Israel and Saudi Arabia have told the White House that Iran is the problem. You might think, with its latest terror designation, the administration might come to that same view. But the administration is reluctant to see the implications of what it has just done. The fact is, it’s long past time to move against Tehran on all fronts. Our key struggle in the Middle East is with the Iranian revolutionary regime that supports Sunni as well as Shiite terrorism.
Obama’s diplomatic march to an Iranian bomb Feb 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 20 • By REUEL MARC GERECHT
Analyzing the Islamic Republic isn’t a guessing game—at least it shouldn’t be. Iranian Islamists’ words and deeds are pretty consistent. Memoirs, speeches, and biographies have poured forth from those who made and sustain the regime. The New York Times and Senator Edward Kennedy may have called Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini an “enigma” and “the George Washington” of his country, respectively, but that was surely because no one at the newspaper or in the senator’s office had read the lectures that the mullah gave in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq, in 1970.
3:01 PM, Jan 9, 2014 • By MICHAEL WARREN
More than 70 foreign policy experts have signed a letter addressed to the leaders in both parties in both houses of Congress urging them to enforce Iran's compliance with the nuclear deal agreed upon in Geneva late last year. Read the full text of the letter, organized by the Foreign Policy Initiative, below:
First successful nuclear test was more than four years ago.11:40 AM, Dec 15, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Secretary of State John Kerry told ABC News in an interview that North Korea "potentially" having a nuclear weapon would be "even more unacceptable." North Korea first tested its nuclear weapons capabilities in 2006 and had a more successful test in 2009. The country's most recent nuclear test was earlier this year.
ABC News journalist Martha Raddatz asked Kerry, who was in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, about the execution of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un's uncle.
But interim deal with Iran puts the White House and its traditional Middle East allies in opposing camps.2:52 PM, Nov 25, 2013 • By LEE SMITH
In the wake of the interim deal that the White House signed with Iran Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry said on the Sunday talk shows that nothing has changed, not with the American position in the Middle East, or with the U.S. alliance system in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is screaming his head off, but Israel has nothing to worry about says Kerry.
Nov 18, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 10 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
Watching the Obama administration at work this week, a friend offered this judgment: Under Obama, Iran keeps its nuclear program and Americans lose their health insurance.
11:15 AM, Sep 19, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
Bill Kristol joined Anderson Cooper and his panel Wednesday night on CNN to discuss Iran and its pursuit of nuclear weapon capability. Watch the video below:
Hosted by Michael Graham.4:04 PM, Apr 4, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with editorial assistant Ethan Epstein on North Korea's belligerence. Hosted by Michael Graham.
Iran talks fail again.Jul 16, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 41 • By JOHN BOLTON
The ongoing failure of talks concerning Iran’s nuclear weapons program, most recently in Istanbul on July 3, is no surprise. This latest negotiation charade between Iran and the Security Council’s five permanent members plus Germany (P5+1) is the culmination of 10 years of innumerable diplomatic endeavors. These efforts rested on the erroneous premise that Iran could be talked out of its decades-long effort to build deliverable nuclear weapons.
An Iran with nuclear weapons is the true threat to the world economy.Jan 16, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 17 • By MICHAEL MAKOVSKY AND LAWRENCE GOLDSTEIN
In 1993, James Carville, President Bill Clinton’s political strategist, said that “if there was reincarnation,” he’d like to return as the bond market, because then he could “intimidate everybody.” Today, with interest rates historically low, the fantasy of choice would no doubt be to come back as the oil market, which intimidates even the U.S. government.
Will the increasingly liberal views of the National Association of Evangelicals affect the next election? 2:29 PM, Nov 10, 2011 • By MARK TOOLEY
The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) on November 8 released a new policy that falls just short of urging total nuclear disarmament while surmising that reliance on nukes might be idolatrous.
NAE was founded in the 1940’s to counter the liberal and then influential National Council of Churches, and was historically a conservative bulwark. Its most famous public moment was likely President Ronald Reagan’s 1983 “evil empire” speech to NAE.
3:26 PM, Jun 29, 2011 • By ANNE BAYEFSKY
On Tuesday, the United Nations again made itself an international laughing stock – except perhaps to the American taxpayers who continue to foot 22 percent of the bill – by appointing North Korea chair of the U.N. Conference on Disarmament. That would be the same North Korea that, according to an article this week by Senator John Kerry, head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has “twice tested nuclear weapons…is developing missiles to carry them…has built facilities capable of producing highly enriched uranium for more nuclear weapons” and has defied a U.N. arms embargo by exporting weapons and sensitive technologies to rogue regimes.
The perils of proliferation in the post-Cold War world.Jun 20, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 38 • By MICHAEL ANTON
How the End Begins
The Road to a Nuclear
World War III