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H. R. McMaster’s Advice to Joe Biden
Words of warning on Iran.
By Hugh Fitzgerald
The former National Security Adviser, H. R. McMaster, appeared recently on Fox News, where he was interviewed by Bret Baier. He had words of warning for Joe Biden, urging him not to rejoin the Iran deal – JCPOA – because it did not sufficiently curb Iran’s nuclear program, did not deal at all with Iran’s ballistic missiles, and did nothing to curb Iran’s regional aggression that threatened Israel and several Gulf Arab states. The story is here: “Former Trump advisor: Israel may act against Iran before Biden admin.,” by Cody Levine, Jerusalem Post, November 12, 2020:
Former National Security Advisor for the Trump administration, Gen. H.R. McMaster, said in an interview with Fox News Thursday that President-elect Joe Biden should not rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear deal upon taking office in on January 20.
McMaster said to Fox host Bret Baier that then-Secretary of State John Kerry was wrong and did not consider the “hostile ideology” of the Iranian regime, in addition to its involvement in regional proxy wars and aggression against the United States.
John Kerry saw – and still sees — Iran as a reasonable country, with the reasonable aims of a nation-state. Iran wants to be free of American threats and aggression; it needs to defend itself against what it sees as a largely hostile world; it is especially anxious about the hostility from the Zionists and the uber-Sunnis of Saudi Arabia. Kerry was repeatedly snookered by smiling Javad Zarif, the suave Iranian foreign minister whom Kerry trustingly took to be his “friend,” a sympathetic interlocutor and like Kerry, a man of the world, with whom he, John Forbes Kerry, could make deals – so unlike the stiff-necked Israelis, such as Benjamin Netanyahu, whom Kerry clearly disliked.
Kerry has been wrong about many things in the Middle East – aside from his apparent indifference to Israel’s rights and its security requirements – but never more so, perhaps, than in his 2016 insistence that Israel could never make a separate peace with “the Arab world” without first making “a Palestinian peace.” Here is what he insisted:
“There will be no separate peace between Israel and the Arab world,” Kerry began at a speaking engagement. “I want to make that very clear with all of you. I’ve heard several prominent politicians in Israel sometimes saying, ‘Well, the Arab world is in a different place now. We just have to reach out to them. We can work some things with the Arab world and we’ll deal with the Palestinians.’ No. No, no, and no.
“I can tell you that, reaffirmed within the last week because I’ve talked to the leaders of the Arab community, there will be no advanced and separate peace with the Arab world without the Palestinian process and Palestinian peace. Everybody needs to understand that. That is a hard reality.”
His arrogant self-assurance makes his wrongheadedness all the more amusing. It’s now 2020, and three Arab states – the U.A.E., Bahrain, and Sudan – have normalized relations with Israel, apparently without consulting John Forbes Kerry, husband to not one but two heiresses, and at present the Lord of Louisburg Square, Duke of Georgetown, and Nabob of Naushon.
In fact, McMaster said, the “hostile ideology” of the Islamic State made it the permanent enemy of the Great Satan, the United States, the leader of the Infidel camp. The mullahs are not content to rule over Iran; their ideology is irredeemably expansionist; they want to export their Islamic revolution to other states, to the whole Muslim world.
“These big payoffs to Iran when the deal was signed, as well as the relief of sanctions … what did they do with that money?” McMaster asked.
“They applied that money to intensify sectarian violence across the region in an effort to put a proxy army on the border of Israel,” he noted, reflecting the position to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
By agreeing to the JCPOA, Iran gained access to the more than $100 billion in assets that had been frozen in overseas banks. McMaster sensibly asks what the Iranians did with the money. We all know by now that it spent some of it on proxies and allies all over the Middle East: on the Houthis in Yemen, on favored Shi’a militias in Iraq, on Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the largest share, some $30 billion, on helping Bashar al-Assad fight his civil war. The aim was clear: to create a “Shi’a crescent” from the Gulf to the Mediterranean. Billions went to pay for arms for these proxies and allies, including 150,000 rockets and missiles that were supplied to Hezbollah alone.
“It would be a really big mistake to turn the clock back to 2016 and resurrect the nuclear deal,” McMaster added.
“The Iran nuclear deal was a political disaster masquerading as a diplomatic triumph.”
All signs are that Biden has already made up his mind to resurrect American participation in the nuclear deal. But perhaps, if the Republicans retain control of the Senate, they can at least force the Administration to demand two changes in the deal: First, there ought to be some limit put on Iran’s ballistic missiles, and an inspection regime established for monitoring those missiles. Second, Iran must end its support, financial and military, for the terror group Hezbollah. It will still be able to make mischief in Yemen, and in southern Iraq. But neither the Houthis nor the Shi’a militias in Iraq are terrorist groups. Those new conditions, if the Biden administration sticks to them, will likely prove unacceptable to Iran, leading it to refuse the new and improved JCPOA. Then it would be back – one hopes — to the reimposition of American sanctions. That would not be a loss. Ask Prime Minister Netanyahu. Ask General H. R. McMaster.