July 15, 2015 | Quote

Syria’s Butcher Really Won the Iran Deal

There’s one person ecstatic about the Iran deal and Washington would probably prefer he just keep his mouth shut: Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. Professing in a cable to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the newly agreed upon nuclear accord between the world’s major powers was a “historic achievement,” Assad went on to note his satisfaction that this would only strengthen Iran’s work for “peace and stability…in the region and the world.” Translation: Iran will further finance and militarily bolster Assad’s crumbling regime, not to mention other affiliates and proxies.

In crafting a largely technical arms control agreement, the U.S. has therefore objectively empowered its traditional enemies—the so-called “Axis of Resistance”—at the expense of its traditional allies, the Sunni-led Gulf States and their satellites, in what may prove to be a new age of deadly sectarian wars in the Middle East, of which Syria, Iraq, and Yemen are only a foretaste. As ever in geopolitical wrangles, it’s civilians who stand to suffer first and most severely.

Consider Iranian support for Assad thus far. The U.N. special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, estimated last month that Iran has spent a whopping $6 billion per year to keep its ally afloat and in an active state of war. Just days ago Damascus ratified a $1 billion credit line from Tehran. The mullahs have also been caught sending oil to Syria that is more or less “free” because there’s no expectation that Assad will ever be in a position to repay the loans Iran extended to it to buy the stuff in the first place. And all this support has transpired under a still-active and robust international sanctions regime.

Indeed, nothing in the detailed, 100-page arms control agreement addresses the knock-on effect of Iranian sanctions relief: namely, where as much as $150 billion in freed-up money will now wind up?


“Under this deal the United States is providing the revolutionary Iranian regime with an economic lifeline to expand its nuclear program over time, rescue its economy, build immunity against future economic pressure and enable Iran to spend billions of new dollars on keeping the vicious sectarian wars of the Middle East as Iran expands its regional influence,” said Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has been highly critical of the Iran rapprochement. “This will only work to the advantage of the most extremist elements like Assad, ISIS, Hezbollah, Iraqi Shiite militias, and the Iran revolutionary regime itself.”

“By gutting economic sanctions, going forward I think it is going to be very difficult to discourage Iran from providing significant support to Assad,” FDD’s Dubowitz said. “From Assad’s perspective having his primary patron no longer under sanctions means the [Iranian] regime no longer must painful choices” between funding its domestic needs and Assad’s.


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