Iran threatened to pull out of nuclear deal negotiations with the Obama administration in 2013 if the U.S. attacked the regime of President Bashar al Assad in Syria, according to the author of a new book that delves into the agreement.
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) August 22, 2016
Obama said in 2012 that the use of chemical weapons by Assad against his own people would cross a "red line." In 2013, when Assad reportedly did just that, Obama decided against military action, and a Russian-brokered deal over the weapons was ultimately struck. Obama was fiercely criticized for not enforcing his own red line, although he later said he was "very proud" of the decision.
Jay Solomon’s reporting in his new book, The Iran Wars, reveals another element to Obama’s decision: The balking by Iran over striking a key Middle Eastern ally.
"When the president announced his plans to attack and then pull back, it was exactly the period in time where American negotiators were meeting with Iranian negotiators secretly in Oman to get the nuclear agreement," he said on MSNBC. "U.S. and Iranian officials have both told me that they were basically communicating that if the U.S. starts hitting President Assad’s forces, Iran’s closest Arab ally … these talks cannot conclude. The IRGC, the Revolutionary’s guards, would not accept a continued engagement with the U.S. if their closest ally was being hit."
House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) slammed the Obama administration in a statement for having "outsourced its Syria policy to Iran."
"If what the Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon said is true, it is utterly shameful that this Administration has effectively outsourced its Syria policy to Iran," he said. "The mere fact that the Administration would make such grievous concessions to Iran just to keep the nuclear talks going further proves how harmful this negotiation was to U.S. national security interests."
The nuclear deal is the key achievement of Obama’s foreign policy, with the White House hailing it as "historic" and the best means to prevent Iran from attaining a nuclear weapon.
Solomon also discussed how he broke the story about the $400 million cash payment made to Iran that the U.S. said was used as "leverage" to secure the release of American prisoners held by Tehran. The Obama administration has denied it was a ransom payment, saying the money was owed to Iran anyway.
Note: This article has been updated to include McCarthy's statement.