In an interview last week for his new book The Iran Wars, Jay Solomon of the Wall Street Journal told Andrea Mitchell that Iran in 2013 had threatened to pull out of nuclear talks if the United States hit Bashar al-Assad’s forces over the Syrian dictator’s use of chemical weapons. The Obama administration quickly denied this. Not true, tweeted White House aide Ned Price.
Of course it’s true. And if it weren’t, Barack Obama would have a lot of explaining to do. Why else did he allow Assad to violate Obama’s own red line with impunity? Why did he jeopardize American interests and endanger allies throughout the Middle East? Why else did he allow a refugee crisis to destabilize Europe? Why has he done nothing to stop the slaughter of nearly half a million Syrians?
Obama himself publicly acknowledged that he won’t interfere with Iranian interests in Syria. In a December 2015 White House press conference, the president spoke of respecting Iranian equities in the Levant. That means preservation of the Assad regime, a vital Iranian interest since it serves as a supply line for Iranian weapons earmarked for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The White House was so serious about respecting this particular equity that it repeatedly leaked details of Israeli strikes on Iranian arms convoys. Obama wanted to show the Iranians his bona fides as a negotiating partner.