Let’s take a moment to focus on a reality that has been staring us in the face for more than two years.
The Obama administration has been directly supporting the operations of the Iranian Qods Force in Iraq, both by bankrolling the Iranian government through the nuclear “agreements” with Iran, and by providing air support to the battles waged by Iran-backed forces on the ground.
The Iranian general in charge of planning and orchestrating those battles, Qassem Soleimani, is the commander of the Iranian Qods Force: the paramilitary force that trains terrorists and proxy “militias,” including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Houthis in Yemen, and the Shia Basij militias in Iraq (known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Force, or PMF).
Soleimani, a top orchestrator of terrorism, has been under U.S. sanctions for arms proliferation since 2007. He was under UN and EU sanctions until they were lifted with implementation of the nuclear JCPOA in January 2016. (Notably, this meant that he wasn’t supposed to be visiting Iraq at all in the period when he was coordinating military operations there in 2014 and 2015. So much for tough “travel sanctions.”)
Yet Obama has been providing direct military support to Soleimani’s battles in Iraq, and enabling Iran to pay for his activities, by releasing funds to Iran – some of them literally payments from the U.S. taxpayer – under the provisions of the Joint Plan of Action of November 2013, and the JCPOA of July 2015.
The funds have been released regularly since January 2014. And it was in the spring of 2014 that Soleimani assumed a key role in fighting the ground war in Iraq to beat back ISIS.
Soleimani has been there directing the fight in each of the major battles for cities held by ISIS since early 2014. The Iraqi army and the Kurds were unable to prevent the fall of Mosul in late 2013 and early 2014. But it was in that battle that the campaign in Iraq became Soleimani’s strategic priority.
U.S. air operations from Irbil, in northern Iraq, began after our deployment there in August 2014, and became combat-focused in September of that year. Although nuclear “agreement” funds were effectively bankrolling Soleimani in Iraq throughout the year, it was in the following year that we added the refinement of direct combat support to his operations.
In March 2015, after Soleimani drove into Iraq from Iran through Diyala Province (northeast of Baghdad), he orchestrated the battle to liberate Tikrit from ISIS. (See map below.) The U.S. provided air support to the forces operating there, although Obama maintained an official pretense that we were not supporting the Shia militias, per se. That public stance was a cynical fiction, since all the Iraq forces in the battle were operating according to Soleimani’s plan.
In April and May 2015, Soleimani directed the battle for Ramadi, west of Baghdad in the Euphrates Corridor that then functioned as ISIS’s operational center of gravity. The U.S. provided air support to the Soleimani-directed battle, and embedded advisors to the Iraqi national troops who were also involved, alongside the Iran-backed Shia militias.
Now, in October 2016, the battle for Mosul has started. Soleimani is directing that battle on behalf of the Iraqi-fielded forces (see here as well): the Shia militias and the national army. And the U.S. is providing air support, artillery support, and embedded advisors (the latter in even greater numbers than in Ramadi and Fallujah).
Moreover, the battle space of northern Iraq is one that Iran has been working to shape for months – as Soleimani and the Qods Force did, along with the Shia militias, in the approaches to Baghdad where the earlier battles were fought. If reports from May 2016 are correct, and Iran has been constructing a base inside northern Iraq where weapons and missile systems can be stockpiled, Soleimani would have the ability to rapidly deploy Iranian battlefield rockets and missiles against the same locations in Mosul where American troops may be operating. Yet we have no assurance that such artillery use would be deconflicted with the other forces on the ground, like ours.
The map of Soleimani’s victorious battles shows how Iran has used the pretext of driving out ISIS to drive into Iraq – a strategy I outlined many months ago. Through the Basij militias and the dependence of the Haider al-Abadi government on them and Soleimani, Iran now has open access to Baghdad and positive control of the approaches to it. Iran now has a dominant force position in Anbar Province, the gateway to Jordan and Israel. With the battle for Mosul, Iran is seeking to establish the same dominance in northern Iraq, a dominance that would give Iran a coherent, advantageous correlation of forces vis-à-vis Turkey and the various Kurdish factions.
And the super-terrific news is that the United States has been facilitating the whole strategic campaign.
That’s what Obama has been paying for, by releasing $700 million a month in oil and gas revenues to Iran since January 2014.
But it’s not just the revenues. It’s also the unfreezing of Iranian assets, which began at about the same time after the JPA was signed in November 2013. Early in 2015, the public learned that some $11.9 billion in unfrozen assets would be handed over to Iran by the time the then-ongoing nuke talks ended, in June 2015. Basically, this money was doled out in a series of bribes to keep Iran from walking away from the talks.
The talks eventually produced the JCPOA, in July 2015. The JCPOA has most famously resulted in the “settlement” of an old arms sale debt between the U.S. and Iran in January 2016: the $1.7 billion payment, $1.3 billion of which was interest funded by the U.S. taxpayer, made cartel-style via money-laundered cash and unmarked-plane transfers. The debt settlement coincided with the release of American hostages in Iran, and clearly functioned as a ransom.
But the release of oil and gas revenues continues, and has been ongoing for more than two and a half years now. Once forensic investigators looked into the peculiar way in which Obama made the January 2016 payment, Congress was prompted to demand an accounting of just how much money has gone to Iran since November 2013. Obama has never given Congress an honest reckoning, and the figure could be as high as $33.6 billion. Who knows? – it could be even higher.
That’s one heck of a lot of cash, flowing to Iran courtesy of Barack Obama throughout the time Qassem Soleimani has been rolling up Iraq, with militias armed, trained, and directed by the Iranian Qods Force – the globe’s premier state-run terror-sponsoring organization.
Note that we can be certain that the $1.7 billion cash drop of January 2016 went to Iran’s military activities, because Iran trumpeted that fact in media reporting. But that’s just confirmation of something we have every reason to be certain about 24/365. Of course we’re paying for Iran’s military, terror-sponsoring, and nuclear activities by releasing cash to Iran. Anytime, for any purpose. We can’t control how the money is spent, and that’s what matters.
It’s just extra-special that Obama has also been bombing targets for Soleimani, and embedding advisors with troops executing Soleimani’s battle plans.
Again, Soleimani was and still is under U.S. sanctions, as a chief figure in Iran’s arms proliferation and state sponsorship of terrorism. (Just in case you thought there might be some aspect of this that wasn’t compromised and underhanded – directly contrary to stated U.S. policy.)
Secretary of State John Kerry did, however, promise Congress in 2015 that sanctions on Soleimani “will stay forever.” For whatever that may be worth.