A high-level appointee from the Obama administration has already attempted to undermine President Trump’s Iran strategy, which was announced just last week.
In announcing his new strategy, President Trump ordered the Treasury Department to sanction Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) effectively as a terrorist organization. He also called into question whether the Iran deal – former President Obama’s signature foreign policy “achievement” – was in the national security interests of the United States.
Unlike Obama, Trump spoke about the moral depravity that is the Iranian regime, highlighting its support for terrorism and global jihad. It appeared that the era of coddling Iran was over for good, and U.S. policy would change as a result.
But in the past week, we’ve seen elements of the executive branch mislead the American people in an effort to shelter Iran from blame for the erosion of Middle East stability.
This week, Iraqi and Iran-backed militias invaded the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk, which was previously controlled by the autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq. Countless displays of gross human rights violations surfaced on social media along the way. Some reports estimated that dozens of Kurds were killed in the operation.
The Kurds have been our most effective partners in fighting against the Islamic State terrorist organization. It seemed inevitable that U.S. agencies would side with the Kurds against Iran-backed operators who threatened their sovereignty.
But that was not the case. In fact, the State Department announced that the United States would not be taking sides in the situation.
The man in charge of the Iraq and counter ISIS portfolio at the State Department is Brett McGurk, who was appointed to that position by Barack Obama. While sometimes praising the Kurds for their effective bouts against ISIS, McGurk has been fiercely critical of their statehood ambitions.
When 93 percent of Iraqi Kurds voted in favor of an independent Kurdish nation, McGurk denounced their efforts, declaring the referendum “ill-timed and ill-advised.” The Obama holdover is committed to the past administration’s idea that Iraq should remain whole and run by the Shiite government in Baghdad (for more on why that’s a bad idea, read our analysis here).
It also appears that the Obama holdover is not being truthful with the American public. When Shiite militias were readying their attack on Kirkuk, McGurk said that they were simply relocating from one city to another. But then the Iran-backed militias entered the city.
Instead of admitting that they were wrong, the State Department and the Pentagon doubled down, claiming that there was no evidence of Shiite militias in Kirkuk. However, along with overwhelming evidence that surfaced on social media detailing the jihadist militants’ presence, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday that a chief Iranian military leader was indeed in Kirkuk prior to the assault.
In the wake of the Kirkuk affair, leading national security experts are calling for McGurk – who is one of the many Obama holdovers still stationed in prominent posts in the State Department – to be held accountable for his apparent dishonesty with the American people.
In an interview with Rudaw, a Kurdish media network, national security expert Michael Pregent pointed to McGurk as the person he believed to be most responsible for botching the U.S. response to the Iran-backed invasion of Kurdish lands.
Jim Hanson, president of the Security Studies Group, has labeled McGurk an “Obama holdover past his expiration date.”
Brett McGurk appears to be dutifully carrying out President Obama’s ambitions to deliver large chunks of the Middle East into Iran’s orbit. For that reason, it’s unclear why he continues to serve under a president who wants to move away from a realignment strategy that allows for Iran to freely terrorize the region.
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