As tensions with Iran escalate, former Obama administration officials and their media allies have been working to push the narrative that the leading state sponsor of terrorism was somehow under control as a result of the Iran nuclear deal. In this alternate universe, 'they' would have us believe the relevant timeline for Iranian aggression against the United States that precipitated the killing of Qassem Soleimani starts in May 2018, when President Donald Trump pulled out of the deal and ignited a conflict between the two nations.
This self-serving and distorted account of history not only ignores decades of hostile behavior by one of the world's leading rogue regimes but also years of aggressive and destabilizing actions by Iran over the course of the Obama presidency -- before the nuclear deal was signed, during negotiations, and after it was implemented. Far from keeping Iran under control, Barack Obama's deal further enabled Iran's malicious behavior and made the Democratic Party and the news media complicit in downplaying its bad actions.
A more appropriate Iranian timeline begins with the 1979 seizure of our embassy in Tehran and the detention of dozens of U.S. diplomats for more than a year. It continues in Lebanon, with Iran's April 1983 murder of 17 Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, and the October 1983 slaughter of 241 U.S. peacekeepers as they slept in their barracks. Iran's gripe with these public servants? They served a multisectarian cause that obstructed Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's subjugation of the Lebanese people. Regrettably, in President Ronald Reagan's withdrawal of U.S. forces from Lebanon, Iran and al-Qaida found a rationale for new terrorism. In 1996, Iranian agents attacked a U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 Americans who had been working to maintain a no-fly zone against Iran's nemesis, Saddam Hussein.
During the 2006 to 2009 period in Iraq, Soleimani's Quds Force deployed explosively formed penetrator shells to Shiite militias in Iraq. These weapons killed hundreds of Americans and maimed thousands more. To be clear, Iran's actions were not designed to end foreign intervention in Iraq but to push America out so that Iran could dictate Iraqi politics. Although little known, another Quds Force attack in 2007 saw four Americans kidnapped from a meeting with Iraqi officials in Karbala and executed while in handcuffs. In Afghanistan, Iran provided weapons and logistics support to various insurgent groups, including the Taliban.
That brings us to the Obama administration. Just months into Obama's presidency, democratic protests broke out across Iran. Yet Obama remained mostly silent, refusing to offer clear, even rhetorical support for the demonstrators, fearing tough statements could endanger diplomatic overtures to Tehran. The regime predictably conducted a brutal crackdown against protesters. Obama, following through with his promise to "extend a hand," sent a series of letters to Iran's leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reeking of desperation.
But Obama's overtures did not change Iranian behavior. Two years after our president had offered an outstretched hand to Tehran, seeking a new relationship, Iran attempted to blow up civilians in our nation's capital. In 2011, under the direction of Soleimani, the Quds Force plotted to blow up the Saudi ambassador at Washington, D.C.'s Cafe Milano restaurant. When the operations agent responsible for carrying out the attack told his Quds handler that the explosion might kill one hundred diners, he was told: "F--- 'em."
Yet that's not all. Both during nuclear negotiations and after the deal was signed, Iran helped Bashar Assad slaughter hundreds of thousands of his people in Syria. The Quds Force and its allies have played a special role in starving Sunni-dominated settlements. In Lebanon, Iran and its Hezbollah ally have blackmailed or bombed dozens of patriots opposed to Tehran's interference. The list of victims includes many security officials and, most notably, former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. In Yemen, Iran has helped fuel the civil war by supporting Houthi extremists.
Obama continued on his course of rapprochement at all costs. Desperate to reach a nuclear accord with Tehran, he ignored terrorist fundraising networks, such as Hezbollah's multibillion-dollar drug and weapons trafficking business, and tolerated Iranian plots against U.S. interests.
What provokes a particularly contemptuous laugh about the contention that the Iran deal kept a lid on bad behavior by the Iranians is that at the time, its supporters argued that other issues, such as terrorism and human rights abuses, would be dealt with on a separate track. After striking a deal with Iran in 2015, John Kerry declared at the outset: "First, what we are announcing today is an agreement addressing the threat posed by Iran's nuclear program -- period -- just the nuclear program."
They said the two were unconnected when the deal was struck, and now they want us to believe that the collapse of the deal is what produced Iranian hostilities. The idea that the nuclear deal exclusively dealt with nuclear issues was a myth. The reality was that the issues were treated separately when it came to the U.S. restricting bad Iranian behavior, but they were not dealt with separately when it came to numerous concessions that enabled bad Iranian behavior. As a result of the deal, Iran received hundreds of billions of dollars of sanctions relief, which Kerry conceded might be used to finance terrorism.
The Iran deal was not disastrous because Obama accepted a weak inspections protocol, although he did. It was awful because, even if the deal were followed to the letter, it still enabled the regime to become a more powerful conventional threat by providing the mullahs with the money to pursue terrorism and the freedom to develop ballistic missiles. Furthermore, restrictions imposed by the deal would have started to sunset after 10 years, meaning the terror state still maintained its long-term ability to develop nuclear weapons.
The Obama administration and its allies ignored bad Iranian behavior to secure the nuclear deal and then downplayed subsequent Iranian bad behavior to defend the deal. And now........., they're attempting to blame Trump for bad Iranian behavior to distract people from recognizing the failed legacy of the deal.