by Karmel Melamed
January 22, 2017
As an Iranian American journalist who follows Middle East news and politics closely on a daily basis, I have been wholeheartedly disappointed by the repeated failures of the Obama presidency with regards to its Iran policy for the last eight years. From his first day in office, I have seen this out-going president and officials in his administration make one disastrous mistake after another when it comes to dealing with the Iranian regime and the radical Islamic thugs who have terrorized the peace-loving people of Iran, threatened America daily with destruction and threatened the stability of the entire Middle East. Now that Obama has left office for good, I wish to extensively opine about his catastrophic decisions when it came to dealing with the Iranian regime. My views are based on my own personal observations as well as my extensive knowledge of this evil Iranian regime. My views are not based on any particular political leanings or support for any political parties. For the record, I did not endorse any candidate in this past 2016 presidential election. If a Republican president had also made these same foolish mistakes when dealing with the Iranian regime, then I would absolutely make the same harsh criticisms. Obama’s views, policies of appeasement and inaction carried out in response to the current Iranian regime’s hostile actions were an utter and complete failure. They must never be repeated by any future U.S. administration. History must give Obama a huge “F” on Iran foreign policy because it was disastrous and will likely have massive negative consequences for the free world in the future.
The Iran policies created by Obama and his advisers during his tenure in the White House not only helped to further destabilize the Middle East, but also emboldened the radical authoritarian clerics who rule Iran with an iron fist to crush all democratic movements for true freedom in that country. The following is a breakdown on his disastrous decisions when it came to dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran…
Inaction during Iranian Fraudulent 2009 Elections
After hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets throughout Iran to protest the fraudulent election results in Iran in June 2009, the ayatollahs ruling the Iranian regime undertook a very bloody and violent crackdown on the protestors. Thousands were beaten, arrested and even killed in the streets of Iran for voicing their opposition to the fraud elections in the country. In response to the Iranian regime’s hard crackdown on innocent Iranian citizens peacefully demonstrating against their oppressive regime, for more than one week Obama and his officials gave no responses or very weak responses in the media about the regime’s harsh crackdown on the protesters. Obama gave watered down plain comments to the press about his “concern” for the violence, but he did nothing more than say a few words. The Iranian protestors marched in the streets and chanted; “Obama, Obama, are you with the regime or with us?” Images of a young innocent protestor, Neda Agha Soltan, bleeding in the streets of Tehran after being shot in the neck for peacefully protesting against the Iranian regime were all over U.S. and European media outlets. Finally after a full week of the Iranian regime killing hundreds of protestors, violently imprisoning others and fully crushing the popular uprising against the ayatollahs, Obama managed to eventually denounce the regime’s horrid actions. But it was too late, the movement for freedom and real democracy in Iran had been effectively decimated by the ayatollahs and their violent thugs in the streets of Iran. For the most part, if Obama was more vocally supportive of those seeking freedom and true democracy in Iran during that time, regime change efforts carried out by the people of Iran could have begun to take place. Or if the Obama administration had provided the protestors with logistical, diplomatic or technological support, this may have helped them in their efforts to begin their own campaign of potentially overthrowing this radical Islamic regime in their country. Obama could have absolutely done more for the protestors and even helped indirectly destabilize the radical Islamic rule of the clerics in Iran at that critical time! He could have gone to greater lengths to help the Iranian people bring about a true democracy on their own terms. But no, for the most part Obama and his administration officials remained on the diplomatic and public relations sidelines saying very little while the innocent Iranian people were trying to thrown off the shackles of oppression placed upon them by the radical Iranian clerics ruling their country. We now know that Obama’s inactions and lack of more vocal support for the protestors were in part in an effort to curry favor with the regime’s thugs and to appease the Iranian ayatollahs ruling the country to begin direct negotiations with the U.S.
Negotiations with Ahmadinejad
According to a 2015 report prepared by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), in 2011 Obama and his officials began negotiating with the evil Iranian regime during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran’s past vehemently anti-Semitic and Holocaust denying president! Contrary to what the administration was telling the U.S. public, Obama’s administration was holding direct secret talks with one of most vocally anti-Israel and anti-American leaders in Iran before the “moderate” Rouhani came to power. Why did Obama direct his team to sit down with any country that has proudly called for wiped Israel off the world map and was developing nuclear weapons capabilities? This was a disastrous move by Obama and his team that only appeased the radical Islamic ayatollahs ruling Iran. It sent the indirect message that you can continue your policy of wanting to destroy Israel and America without any repercussions from the U.S. and other world powers.
Horrid Iran Nuclear Deal and easing of sanctions
It is true Obama that in 2010 signed into law the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act (CISADA) and placed additional sanctions on the Iranian regime because of their pursuit of a nuclear weapons program. These sanctions and others placed by the U.S. and European powers were for a few years very effective in slowly crushing the Iranian regime economically by chocking off their financial resources and money going into the pockets of the Iranian revolutionary guard leaders. The regime was suffering tremendously as a result of the sanctions and unfortunately so were the average people of Iran. However the sanctions were an amazing tool that were slowly bringing the radical Islamic regime’s leaders to their knees and slowing their ambitious spread of terrorism in the Middle East. However Obama and his administration made a huge mistake in not continuing these strong sanctions against their regime that may have likely lead to the regime’s ultimate collapse. Instead Obama and his officials engaged in a ridiculous sham “Iran Nuclear Deal” that eased the sanctions on the Iranian regime and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leaders and also very weakly curbed the regime’s march towards nuclear weapons capabilities. This shameful “deal” allowed the Iranian regime to self-monitor their own nuclear facilities which would allow them to potentially break-out in their nuclear weapons production at any time. The deal also failed to prohibit the Iranian regime’s production or acquisition of long range ballistic missiles. The deal failed to lay out any repercussions of the Iran regime after 10 years should the regime pursue nuclear weapons. The deal also removed critical banking and international finance restrictions on the Iranian regime’s pursuit of military weaponry. Most importantly the deal failed to have any “teeth” or sever consequences for the Iranian regime’s continued expansionist military moves in the Middle East, sponsorship of international terrorism and overall destabilization of the region. The economic and diplomatic pressures on the regime, its clerics and the IRGC leaders were all reduced and eased under Obama tenure. Today after one year since the “deal” was signed we see the Iranian regime has not stopped their sponsorship of terrorism through their proxies Hezbollah and Hamas, they have had violations of their nuclear material production and have even expanded their military destabilization in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The Iranian regime which was on the ropes and on a brink of economic collapse, was given a new lifeline and ability to stay alive with this failed policy of appeasement and sanctions easing under Obama’s tenure.
Near silence on Iranian regime’s human rights violations
The laundry list of egregious human rights violations carried out the Iranian regime’s leaders and thugs is too long to list in full and span near four decades. But just in the last four years under the “moderate” president Rouhani, executions of various individuals for homosexuality, “crimes against Islam”, supposed treason against the state, drug use and other minor criminal offenses has been staggering. Roughly 1000 people were executed in 2015 alone, according to a recent report from the U.N.’s special rapporteur for human rights in Iran. Iranian American human rights experts believe the unofficial number of people executed by the Iranian regime is even higher. Countless individuals who have spoken out against the regime’s iron fisted rule have also been arrested, imprisoned and torture. These individuals include artists, journalists, homosexuals, musicians, bloggers, student political activists, women, union leaders and others in Iran. The Iranian regime has also strongly come down on ethnic and religious minority communities, including the Sunnis, Arabs, and individuals from the Baha’i faith who continue to be systematically targeted and discriminated against. The ruthless leaders of the Iranian regime have also blocked nearly five million websites and social media sites that carry political news and analysis which they deem “unacceptable” or disapprove of. Every day we hear of these horrid human rights abuses carried out by the Iranian regime through activists and reports, but yet the Obama administration has said very little and done even less to pressure the regime to stop their unnecessary random executions and human rights violations. Why did Obama and his other administration officials not more vocally speak out and pressure the ayatollahs in Iran to stop these human rights violations during the “nuclear deal” negotiations when they had leverage? Obama’s failure to try and stop the Iranian regime’s crimes against humanity was an enormous mistake in his administration.
Inaction on Iranian regime’s growing hegemonic expansion
After Obama ordered the abrupt removal of major U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, the Iranian regime full of expansionist ambitions quickly moved into Iraq in order to fill the security vacuum left behind by America. The Iranian regime through political and military pressure has for all practical purposes taken over much of Iraq which is a majority Shiite in population just as the Iranian population. The Iranian regime’s moves into Iraq have been by in large ignored or disregarded by the Obama administration who foolishly believed the Iranian regime’s lies that they are “fighting” ISIS in Iraq. The excuse of fight ISIS in Iraq and the physical presence of Iranian military leaders and Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia in large parts of Iraq, permitted the Iranian regime to exert or expand their “sphere of influence” into Iraq and spread their radical anti-American propaganda into a larger region of the Middle East without any repercussions. The American government under Obama has been asleep at the wheel or just plain ignorant by doing nothing to stop the Iranian regime’s continued aggressive expansion into Iraq. Therefore the Iranian regime seeing no challenges from Europe or the U.S., has instead continued its march for hegemonic domination into Syria and even Yemen in recent years. Since Iran has been a primary lifeline to Assad’s evil regime in Syria for decades, the ayatollahs in Iran took advantage of the chaos in Syria by again sending in their troops into Syria during their recent civil war as well as funding and building the military capabilities of their terror proxy Hezbollah in Syria as well. Today after six years of the bloody conflict in Syria and the Obama administration’s near silence about the Iranian regime’s growing political and military presence in that country, the Iranian regime has essentially taken over the majority of Syria as well. In addition, the Iranian regime seeing no major diplomatic or potential military consequences from the U.S. government under Obama for their expansion activities in the Middle East, have also moved into Yemen. With the civil war raging on in Yemen today between Sunni and Shiite factions, the Iranian regime has armed the Shiite groups with advanced weaponry in a bid to again expand their sphere of influence in the region. Of course the Obama administration has also been silent on increased funding and military arming by Iran of their terror proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon. Today Lebanon is nearly fully controlled by Hezbollah which has a larger arsenal of weaponry and military force than the Lebanese army. With Hezbollah effectively in control of Lebanon today, essentially their ayatollah puppet masters in Tehran control Lebanon as well. In the end, under Obama’s watch, his lack of stopping the Iranian regime’s hegemonic expansion has allowed the evil radical Islamic power of the Iranian regime to expand today into Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. This hegemonic growth of the Iranian regime has led to a further destabilizing of the Middle East as a whole thanks in part to Obama and his administration’s failed policies regarding Iran’s expansion moves in the region.
Growing Iranian sponsorship of Hezbollah & Hamas
As if terrorism and constant bloodshed weren’t rampant enough in the Middle East, under Obama’s tenure the Iranian regime has increased its financial and military sponsorship of its terror proxies Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Hamas since its 2007 takeover of Gaza has launched thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian populations. These rockets were made with supplies and funding directly from the Iranian regime. Moreover Hamas’ reign of control in Gaza is primarily due to large funding they receive from the ayatollahs in Iran, otherwise their hold on the entire strip would collapse without any real financial support. Likewise, in the last eight years, the Iranian regime has send thousands on missiles and advance weaponry to their other terror proxy Hezbollah. Millions petro-dollars the Iranian regime received from sale of their crude oil were poured into the coffers of Hezbollah and to pay for the rearmament of Hezbollah’s fighters in Southern Lebanon that pose a direct threat to Israel every day. According to Israeli officials, Hezbollah now has nearly 120,000 surface-to-surface rockets and missiles— and many of them are precision long range missiles capable of hitting any place in Israel. Moreover, Hezbollah’s leadership has on a daily basis promised to destroy Israel. So we wonder why didn’t Obama or his administration cronies place more indirect or direct pressure on the Iranian regime to stop their sponsorship of these terrorist groups? Yes, Israel did received funding and support for the “Iron Dome” program during Obama’s tenure to combat the missile attacks from potential Hamas and Hezbollah missile strikes, but that support came more from the U.S. Congress’ initiatives. And why didn’t Obama or his officials do more to cut off the financial and military support the Iranian regime was giving to these terror groups that are the primary forces of destabilization in the region? After all, the U.S. had powerful sanctions on hand that it could have used as leverage against the Iranian regime to help curtail their funding of these terror groups. Again this was no doubt another major failure on the part of the Obama administration regarding the Iranian regime.
Spread of Iranian terror to U.S. and Western Hemisphere
According to recent U.S. intelligence and military reports, the Iranian regime through its terror group Hezbollah has a major presence in Mexico, parts of Central America and even a military base off the coast of Venezuela! The Iranian regime has during the last eight years spread its reach into South America with Hezbollah training camps in the border regions between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. In October 2011, U.S. intelligence uncovered and stopped a plot by Iranian regime agents to assassinate Saudi ambassador Adel al-Jubeir in the United States. This action was by all standards an act of war by the Iranian regime, but as usual the Obama administration stayed silent and did very little to stop the Iranian regime’s growing threat to the U.S. within the U.S. homeland. The Iranian regime has moved forward with its efforts in the western hemisphere to grow their influence and potentially advance their reach of terrorism but the Obama administration did very little to halt the regime’s advances.
Growing Hostility in the Persian Gulf
In the last eight years the IRGC’s naval forces have been increasingly making hostile maneuvers towards U.S. Naval vessels in portions of the Persian Gulf that were not close to or in Iranian waters. These hostile naval acts have been borderline acts of war and unprovoked by the U.S. Since the signing of the “Nuclear Deal” with Iran, these IRGC Naval maneuvers have increased even more and it seems as if the Obama administration and Department of Defense under Obama’s watch have failed to call out these hostile acts by the Iranian regime’s naval forces. The breaking point in my opinion came in January 2016 when 10 U.S. Navy sailors were captured by the IRGC while their speed boat was patrolling the Persian Gulf. The Iranian regime then paraded the sailors on a video broadcasted on their state-run television showing them on their knees with their hands clasped behind their heads as they were being apprehended on their vessels. Two of the videos featured one of the Americans apologizing and praising Iran’s treatment of them. This event was an act to publicly humiliate the U.S. in front of the international media and in turn Obama’s response was mute. The U.S. sailors were eventually released by the Iranian regime but the regime’s leaders spent the remaining month trash talking American forces in Persian Gulf and claiming they were the new naval power in the region! Clearly the Obama administration’s weak military policy regarding the Iranian regime’s provocations in the Persian Gulf again show Obama was more interested in appeasing the ayatollahs in Iran rather than showing the strength of U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf that are not only protecting U.S. allies but also U.S. interests in the region. I am not advocating that the U.S. should have engaged the IRGC forces in a full military counter-attack, but the U.S. should have given stern warnings and even potential military warnings to the Iranian regime that further provocations by the IRGC in the Persian Gulf would not be tolerated.
Giving More than One Billion in Cash to Iranian Regime
What has utterly shocked, baffled and disgusted me this past year has been the Obama administration giving $1.3 billion in cold hard cash to this evil Iranian regime! Obama and his officials claim the money was owed to Iran by the U.S. in order to resolve a decades-old dispute over an undelivered military sale. The Iranian government claimed the previous regime of the Shah had paid millions to the U.S. for military aircraft and supplies but the U.S. had failed to deliver those goods and owed the ayatollah’s regime those million back plus interest. While legally the Iranian regime may be right that the nation of Iran is owed this money, but why the hell would anyone in their right mind release more than a billion dollars in cash now to an Iranian regime that calls for the destruction of America every day and is one of the largest state-sponsors of terrorism in the world?! Why the hell would anyone in their right mind give more than a billion dollars in cash now to an Iranian regime that is building clandestine nuclear weapons factories and developing advanced intercontinental ballistic missiles?! The Obama administration with this truly idiotic move in giving cold hard cash to the ayatollahs and their thugs just gave a huge shot in the arm to the Iranian regime which has NOT poured millions of dollars into helping the people of Iran, but instead into funding their terrorist groups and continuing their bloody proxy wars against Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S.! This move by the Obama administration was nothing more than appeasement of an evil force that will ultimately prove to be detrimental to the U.S. in the future. Some even believe the Obama administration paid this $1.3 billion in cash to the Iranian regime as a ransom payment in order for the regime to release Iranian-Americans they had imprisoned! How utterly crazy was this move to just hand over such huge sums of money to a regime that wants to destroy you?! For me this move by the Obama administration proved to be their lowest level of utter stupidity when it comes to Iran policy.
Little Done to Stop Iranian Holocaust Denial & Anti-Semitism
The Iranian regime for more than two decades has engaged in one of the most vile and disturbing international campaigns of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the world today. The regime even under the “moderate” Rouhani has continued its sick tradition of Holocaust denial by hosting dozens of Holocaust denial conferences in Tehran and Holocaust denial carton competitions. These revolting conferences the Iranian regime has sponsored to spew their hate and deny the Nazi genocide of the 20th century have welcomed some of the most infamous European Holocaust revisionists as well as infamous U.S. white supremacist leaders such as former KKK leader David Duke. Again the U.S. administration under Obama did little to stop or combat this active campaign by the Iranian regime to spread the regime’s message of hate and Holocaust denial. It is now clear Obama and his cronies did little to fight the Iranian regime’s Holocaust denial campaigns for fear of potentially “upsetting” the regime’s ayatollahs who they were seeking a nuclear deal with. While the U.S. State Department gave weak condemnations of the Holocaust denial conferences organized by the Iranian regime, they could have done more to combat the regime’s message of hate and Holocaust denial. The U.S. government could have organized a media campaign educating people in Iran and elsewhere worldwide about the truth of the Holocaust and potentially put travel restrictions or penalties on Americans and Europeans traveling to Iran for these hate conferences. The U.S. government could have organized a counter-campaign to educate Americans and others about the true horrors of the Holocaust featuring Holocaust survivors. Moreover Obama could have used hundreds of different media and public forums available to him to openly denounce the Iranian regime’s denial of the Holocaust and threatened to pull out from any diplomatic negotiations with the Iranian regime if they did not stop their campaign of anti-Semitism or Holocaust denial. Yet in the end, Obama and his administration officials did none of these things and basically left the Iranian regime to continue their sick campaigns of hate.
Again the list of failures on Iran policy by the Obama administration during the last eight years is much longer than the above ten major reasons I have laid out. It would take months to compile a complete list of the Obama administrations blunders on Iran policy and I frankly do not have the time to dedicate to developing such a list. It is very clear that instead of helping to economically and politically weaken the Iranian regime to the point where its leadership would be challenged by the people of Iran, Obama and his administration instead did the complete opposite. They gave the Iranian regime a new lifeline of economic strength and diplomatic cover to strengthen their brutal control over the people of Iran and also indirectly helped the regime spread their radical Shiite Islamic hegemony across the Middle East with a policy of appeasement. My hope is that the new incoming U.S. administration, Congress and future administrations will learn from these utterly horrible mistakes by Obama and his officials with regards to dealing with the Iranian regime and do not repeat them. The Obama administration’s policy of actively engaging this evil Iranian regime in hopes of possibly changing its behavior with monetary or diplomatic incentives was a huge diplomatic mistake and further proof that appeasement of a totalitarian dictatorship will only result in further hostility and growth of that regime’s evil behavior. This was seen with the western powers appeasing the Nazi regime with territory before World War II. Today the famous words of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who said “an appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last” should remain in our minds when dealing with this evil Iranian regime. My only hope and prayer is that the Obama eight years of failed appeasement of the Iranian ayatollahs and timid behavior towards the Iranian regime’s aggressive military expansionism, will not result in long term security risks to Israel, Middle Eastern countries and to America.