Underlying the chaotic situation throughout the Middle East is the Obama administration’s dysfunctional political strategy of switching sides in the Arab Spring revolutionary wars. The Obama administration has abandoned U.S. allies in the global war on terrorism and formed an alliance with many of the Islamic jihadist groups and militias that Americans have been fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan — and few have noticed.
In Libya, the U.S. wound up supporting the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, which was listed as an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group by the United States and the U.N. Security Council. The Arab Spring movement only served to legitimize the Islamic supremacists under the umbrella of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Obama administration promoted as a moderate political force. I am confident that the administration’s “enlightened” strategic policy of providing political and material assistance to the Islamic jihadists was carefully guided by the many Muslim Brotherhood front groups and agents that have direct access to the White House and have been able to penetrate virtually every key government agency responsible for national security.
All the propaganda about freedom and democracy was wishful thinking. Rebel atrocities were simply ignored. It would have been unconscionable to imagine the United States aligning itself and supporting groups that decapitated their enemies, but under the Obama administration, that was just what the U.S. did. What happened to American values? Until now, the U.S. never would have made common cause with terrorists, let alone groups that are out to destroy the country. In Libya, the U.S. ignored the atrocities as well as the rebel leadership’s association with al Qaeda. For the record, there is no difference between the rebels’ ideology and al Qaeda’s. Both stand for Islamic supremacism governed by draconian Shariah law, which is incompatible with the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. As thanks, Americans got the Benghazi attack.
Compounding the strategic mistakes in Egypt and Libya, which brought the Islamic supremacist Muslim Brotherhood to power, the U.S. now plans to provide political and material support to al Qaeda-allied rebel groups in Syria. Once again, the U.S. is ignoring rebel atrocities and aligning itself with sworn enemies, the Islamic supremacists.
National security advisers who assure Americans that support will go only to rebels supporting freedom and democracy are fooling themselves, if not us. U.S. leaders can’t even get to the bottom of the Internal Revenue Service scandal, let alone rebel groups that shift alliances on a daily basis. On either side of the Syrian civil war, there are no “good guys” the U.S. should legitimize by giving support. We must recognize that both sides, Shiite and Sunni alike, profess a jihadist ideology, both are U.S. enemies, and both would destroy America if given the opportunity.
Strategically, we do not have a dog in this fight. Our principal and overriding strategic issue in the Middle East is preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon capability. Every other issue pales in comparison. Therefore, our response to the Syrian civil war should be asymmetrical. Because Iran is deeply involved in the conflict, the U.S. should take advantage of that situation by repositioning forces so that it is ready to launch devastating strikes to eliminate Iran’s nuclear infrastructure.
Such a strike would have the effect of bringing “balance” back into Syria’s civil war and would be a long-overdue payback for Iran’s almost 34 years of war against the United States. We cannot forget the thousands of American lives lost as a result of Iran’s not-so-stealthy aggression, nor its material support to the Sept. 11 hijackers.
With the election of a so-called “pragmatic moderate” as Iran’s president, there will be a loud chorus arguing that the U.S. needs to hold in abeyance any military action against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure until we see how the new president will address American concerns. It must be understood that President-elect Hasan Rowhani is not a “pragmatic moderate.” He is a hard-core disciple of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and fully supports the apocalyptic views and repressive character of the current regime, including the destruction of Israel and the United States. As Iran’s former principal nuclear negotiator, he stalled any meaningful progress on changing direction in Iran’s drive to achieve a deliverable nuclear weapons capability.
As an indication of his “moderate” views, Mr. Rowhani called for the execution of the “Green Revolution” activists in 2009, whom President Obama chose to ignore. Furthermore, with Mr. Obama snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in Iraq, which is now Iran’s main conduit to provide support to Syria, the U.S. needs dramatic action to restore its credibility. With Iran’s committed involvement in supporting the Assad regime in Syria’s civil war, an asymmetrical response by the United States to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons infrastructure will bring balance back into the civil war and restore U.S. credibility by eliminating a principal threat to U.S. objectives in the Middle East and elsewhere, as well as ensure the survival of U.S. ally Israel.
Retired Adm. James A. Lyons was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.