The Trump administration has been clear about two things that don’t necessarily match up. One: That our fight in Syria is exclusively about killing terrorists and destroying the Islamic State. Two: That Iran represents a national security threat to both the U.S. and Israel and that regime change is not out of the question. While we don’t doubt the president’s sincerity in either of these positions, Iran’s growing influence in Syria makes the two policies difficult to reconcile. Make no mistake about it, while the U.S. is busying the coalition in the war against ISIS, Iran is taking advantage of the war to gain a strategic foothold in Assad’s territory. Does it make sense to “save” Syria only to hand it over to the loose partnership of Assad, Putin, and Iran?
To helpfully remind Americans what kind of country we’re talking about, Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei delivered a speech last Monday to mark the Muslim feast of Eid al Fitr. And if you listen to him, you would hardly be able to distinguish his inflammatory rhetoric from the kind of Islamist propaganda that comes from people like ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“Unity and avoiding division benefits all Muslim countries and through harmony over the issue of Palestine as the foremost problem of the Muslim world, it must be prevented from being diminished or forgotten,” Khamenei said. “Palestine is the foremost issue of the Muslim world, but some Muslim countries act in such a way that is meant to make the issue of Palestine ignored and forgotten.
“According to Islamic jurisprudence,” he continued, “once faced with the domination of the enemy over Islamic territory, all Muslims are duty-bound to campaign and carry out jihad in whatever possible form and, therefore, fighting against the Zionist regime is incumbent upon and mandatory for the entire Islamic world.”
If that’s not terrorist language, what is? And what difference does it make if the terrorists are “enemies” of Iran – like ISIS – or allies of the regime, like the organization known as Hezbollah? Do we really want to give Iran the territory we’ve fought so hard to liberate from the hands of the Islamic State just to hand it over to this even more dangerous national security threat?
In front of the United Nations on Wednesday, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Danny Danon, revealed that Iran had used a Jewish Star of David as target practice in one of its missile tests last year.
“This use of the Star of David as target practice is hateful and unacceptable,” Danon said. “This missile test not only violates Security Council resolutions but also proves beyond doubt, once again, the true intentions of Iran to target Israel.”
Trump has been wise to focus on destroying ISIS, and there are many reasons he should be wary about being dragged into a long, deadly war with the aim of dethroning Assad. But the U.S. cannot ignore the clear and present danger of Iran, nor allow them to fill the power vacuum that we’ll create once we bring our military home from Syria. This is a regime with the same “Caliphate” designs as ISIS…only with a lot more money and power behind them.