Addressing Iran’s expanding role in the Middle East, The Washington Post editorial board wrote on Thursday that “the Obama administration has declined to counter increasingly aggressive efforts by Iran to extend its influence across the Middle East and seems ready to concede Tehran a place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies.” On Friday, the Iran-backed Houthi militants announced that they had taken over the Yemeni government and dissolved parliament, having previously seized the capital (causing nervousness in Riyadh) and forced the resignation of the U.S.-allied president. An Iranian general crowed about this “historic victory for the Iranian Islamic revolution.” Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah confirmed that the group and Iran were bolstering their presence in the Golan Heights. Iran’s increasing influence in Iraq, according to analysts Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent, “has resulted in a wave of sectarian bloodletting and dispossession… usually at the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups…” Iraq’s current Minister of the Interior belongs to an Iranian proxy group that has committed severe human rights violations.
President Barack Obama told NPR last December that Iran had the potential to be a “very successful regional power” if it were to make concessions on its nuclear program. The Weekly Standard noted, “In the same interview, President Obama acknowledges that Iran sponsors terrorism and wants a nuclear bomb.” In a recent essay, Michael Doran, a scholar formerly at the Brookings Institution and now at the Hudson Institute, argues that Obama has an overarching strategy of “integrating Iran into the international diplomatic and economic system.” The analyst David Daoud contended in The Tower last December that “the President is quietly attempting to cement a new American regional vision in which Iran is to play a central role.” At the end of last year, Secretary of State John Kerry said he “welcomed any Iranian military action against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq as ‘positive,’” Agence France-Presse reported. In the fall of 2014, President Obama sent a secret letter to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to assure him that “the U.S.’s military operations inside Syria aren’t targeted at Mr. Assad or his security forces,” which are propped up by Iran in a conflict that has claimed over 200,000 lives.
America’s Arab allies have expressed their anxiety about Iran’s expanding regional footprint. The Saudi Ambassador to the United Kingdom wrote in December 2013 that his country’s Western allies “have seemed all too ready to concede our safety and risk our region’s stability.”