Hindsight is 20/20, but when you are the commander-in-chief, you can’t afford to be wrong. When it comes to Iran, George W. Bush was very wrong, and Barack Obama was very complicit. And now it’s left to President Trump to clean up the mess.
I refer in particular to the way Tehran used both Mr. Bush and Mr. Obama, albeit in different ways, to promote its own interests in the Middle East and put its troops on Israel’s doorstep, all to fulfill a long-held dream of eradicating the Jewish state from the map. Although it can seem like ancient history, we’re living with the consequences to this day.
Mr. Bush was told that Iran was the major threat in the region, not Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. He was told that if he invaded Iran, the mullahs would make life hell for American troops. He was told that Iran wanted to take control of Iraq. I know, I’ve talked to the people who told him.
You see, over the prior decade, a massive rebel army had been building on Iran’s northwestern border with Iraq, safely housed inside Iraqi territory. These weren’t Iraqis, they were patriotic Iranian exiles who called themselves the People’s Mujahadeen of Iran, also known as the MEK. The MEK’s National Liberation Army of Iran at its height before the Iraq war boasted 10,000 battle-hardened and 300 armored vehicles. On a previous excursion into Iranian territory, it had traveled over 60 miles into the Islamic Republic, captured thousands of Iranian soldiers, scores of armored vehicles, and inflicted 55,000 casualties.
For two decades, the MEK had been an existential threat to the mullahs’ murderous regime, so much so that Iran’s government executed over 120,000 of its members and demonized as a terrorist organization in the Western media.
And the Iranian regime’s campaign to eliminate what it saw as a mortal threat was not over, as tensions between Washington and Baghdad soared.
Enter Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi politician who was in bed with Iranian intelligence services and fed Mr. Bush false information about Saddam having weapons of mass destruction. Don’t believe me? Just Google it. Scott Ritter, the American weapons inspector said Mr. Chalabi boasted openly of his intelligence sources in Iran and even offered to set up a meeting with the head of Iran’s intelligence service.
When the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, officials publicly stated that the MEK compounds in eastern Iraq were bombed “as a favor to the mullahs.” The MEK never fired a shot in anger at American forces, even as the 500-lb. bombs rained down on their bases. When U.S. commander Gen. Ray Odierno approached their main camp to force a surrender, MEK leaders served his staff dinner and they parted as friends.
But Mr. Bush, in a catastrophic misjudgment, disarmed the MEK, apparently in the misguided hope that “moderates” in Tehran might make a deal and stop exporting terror. The last best chance to challenge the tyrants in Tehran was thrown away.
The upshot: With the MEK out of the way, Iran proceeded to produce endless mischief in Iraq, aiding anti-U.S. insurgent groups and directly and indirectly harassing and bombing U.S. forces. When President Obama in 2009 pulled U.S. combat troops out of Iraq, Iranian troops and Iran-backed militias flooded into the resulting power vacuum in Iraq and Syria, reaching all the way to Israeli border along the Golan Heights.
After American troops left, the now-defenseless MEK supporters were left to the mercy of Iraqi special forces and missile attacks, pushed on by Iran.
President Trump, in so many ways, is right — the Iraq war was one of the greatest foreign policy disasters in American history. The Bush administration knew better, but was blinded by arrogance. The Obama administration’s approach was marked by equal parts naivete and duplicity.
The results are on full display today, with Mr. Trump left to clean up the mess. Iran now has its coveted Shia “land bridge” to supply allies and proxies from Tehran to Damascus. We finally have a president who correctly diagnosed the problem. Let’s hope he has he fortitude to supply the remedy.
• L. Todd Wood is a former special operations helicopter pilot and Wall Street debt trader, and has contributed to Fox Business, The Moscow Times, National Review, the New York Post and many other publications. He can be reached through his website, LToddWood.com.
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