President Barack Obama has undertaken a delicate, high-wire gambit for using the nuclear accord with Tehran as the fulcrum for removing the “heavy lifting” of the war on ISIS from America’s shoulders and passing it on to Iran.
This plan, still in play between the two parties, is revealed by DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, as the motivation behind the extravagant leeway America is allowing Iran for developing its nuclear capabilities.
According to those sources, the draft of a US-Iran nuclear accord is finished. Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif had resolved the last outstanding clauses and had the document ready for signing when they met in Munich Sunday, Feb. 8.
The last hurdle was removed by President Obama’s consent to reprieving Iran from having to answer still pending questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the military aspects of its nuclear projects. It was decided that Iran will not have to face any more agency inspections on those aspects.
President Obama appears to be impervious to the widespread criticism of the accord as a “bad deal.” He also seems undaunted by the US House leader John Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to address Congress on March 3 on its dangerous shortcomings. President Obama is racing forward to get the accord sealed by the end-of-March deadline – come what may.
Obama wants to shelve nuclear issue, move on to Part II of his game plan
Only one man can stop him now: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His intentions are still an enigma – not just to Washington, but even to Iran’s own president Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister, who await instructions about signing.
(Khamenei’s considerations are analyzed in a separate article in this issue.)
A broad hint to future US-Iranian strategy for the war on ISIS may be inferred from President Rouhani’s speech Wednesday, Feb. 11, at a rally on the 39th anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
There can be no nuclear deal without ending the “humiliating sanctions,” he said, adding that peace and stability in the region and “the uprooting of terrorism” cannot be achieved without Iran.
In the last couple of weeks, Obama has been behaving as though everything is going his way: the nuclear deal is in the bag, Iran’s attainment of pre-nuclear power status is a foregone conclusion, and the time has gone by for American, Israeli or joint military pre-emption.
The US President seems to be saying: Let’s move on. It is time to shelve the nuclear issue and turn to Part Two of my game plan for the Middle East and the war on terror.
Obama proposes to dump the war on ISIS in Iran’s lap
So where is this going?
During the 14 years since Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on America, the United States expended thousands of lives and enormous treasure on great wars for defeating Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan and overthrowing the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein.
Because America bore the onus of these campaigns, Iran counted on America again assuming the burden of defeating the contemporary arch-foe, the Sunni Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The ayatollahs reckoned at first that they could sit back and watch the United States executing another cleanup before departing the scene and leaving Tehran to enjoy its benefits.
But Obama is maneuvering to turn this pattern on its head.
Instead of leading US into another costly new Middle East war for eradicating the Islamic State, he proposes dumping it in Iran’s lap. His plan hinges on choreographing the Iranians into shouldering the lead role in the war on ISIS by presenting them with two buttons marked “nuclear” and “sanctions.”
So long as Iran sticks to its commitment to remain a pre-nuclear power and doesn’t cross the threshold to the bomb’s manufacture, the US will gradually ease the sanctions regime.
That is why the Washington and Tehran are still dickering over the timeline for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Iran gets free rein to go for assets in Mid East trouble spots
But most importantly, the Obama administration is meanwhile giving Iran free rein to move in on Iraq, Syria and Yemen and get involved in every possible Middle East trouble arena, so long as Tehran coordinates its interventions with Washington.
The US President counts on Iran’s boundless aspirations bringing it up squarely at some point against its arch-foe, the ultra-belligerent Islamic State. A duel is inevitable for the crown of top dog of the region.
According to the Obama script, the United States will stay on the sidelines of this historic collision between two rampant radical Muslim forces, after giving the Shiite side his vote.
Nevertheless, Wednesday Feb. 11, he asked Congress to authorize US military force against the Islamic State group, limited to three years, to counter “a direct threat to the United States.” He proposed a ban on "enduring offensive combat operations” (no more full-dress wars on the scale of Afghanistan or Iraq). But he did ask for “flexibility for ground combat operations in other more limited circumstances.”
One of the examples he offered for this circumstance was a special operations attack on an ISIS command or leader – a single event by its very nature.
In the view of DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, this type of flexibility would give Washington leverage for keeping Iran in line and in coordination with the US while, at the same time, allowing the US administration to pick and choose a special forces operation spectacular enough for American kudos without dragging it into long-term involvement.
Iran will play ball with Obama in the short term – then go for a nuke
When Obama met the new Saudi King Salman in Riyadh on Jan. 27, he was asked by court officials how the US proposed to contain Iranian expansion through the Middle East and Gulf. Obama replied by offering to act as broker for a political and security pact between Riyadh and Tehran.
Asked on another occasion, where his transactions with Iran would leave Israel, he answered curtly that Israel was not important and had no part to play in these events.
Is the Obama game plan practicable?
DEBKA Weekly’s Iran experts think not. Tehran will naturally seize on the freedom of action in the Middle East on offer by the Obama administration. At the same time, the Iranians will act solely in their own interests – not those of the United States. The ayatollahs’ regime is bound by the fundamental tenet that holds them to disseminating their revolution to every corner of the Muslim world as a bounden duty.
They no doubt welcome Obama’s unexpected support in the pursuit of their sacred goals in the immediate term. But their revolutionary paths and aspirations are their guiding star. Their resort to a full-scale nuclear weapons capability will become unavoidable for achieving their revolutionary objectives and preserving them.
But by then, Barack Obama may be gone from the White House and, barring any more unforeseen shifts in the region’s landscape, his successor be forced to contend with a nuclear-armed Iran.