I have to say that I, personally, was worried when Tehran and a group of six nations (P5+1) reached the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. While the negotiators were defining it as a "historical deal," Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was also worried. According to him, the deal was a "historical mistake."
But my reasons to worry were different than Netanyahu's. He was worrying about Israel, alleging that Iran would use the deal to keep pursuing a nuclear weapon, putting Israel's security in danger. Saudi Arabia and the UAE were not happy about the news that a deal had been reached, either.
The real danger was waiting for the rest of the region, especially in Syria. I wish I was wrong and the deal would also have brought some stability in the Middle East and decrease the number of conflicts while it was supposed to limit Tehran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting in
ternational oil and financial sanctions. Instead, it changed the whole dynamics in the region making the conflicts worse and increasing uncertainty.
However, some were happy, and the Syrian regime was one of them. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad had praised the agreement saying, "The deal was the product of the Islamic Republic's wish to reduce tensions with the international community."
Syria was already in a violent civil war, in which over 300,000 Syrians had been brutally killed mostly by the Assad regime, and millions of the country's inhabitants had been displaced. Damascus heavily depended on the support of Iran and Iran-backed Hezbollah to fight opposition groups.
Until Russia actively intervened in Syria, Iran was the most powerful proxy force in the devastated country as well as other countries in turmoil like Iraq and Yemen. The Quds Force, under the command of Maj. Gen. Qassem Souleimani, has already been on the ground for years in an attempt to keep the Syrian butcher's regime alive. It prepared a suitable swamp for mosquitoes like Daesh to be born and grow in the region with the help of the Lebanese militia, Hezbollah.
As the losses of mostly Iraqi and Hezbollah fighters deployed in Syria increased, Iran has started to send Shiite mercenaries from other countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan, offering them thousands of dollars to fight.
Although the former U.S. President Barack Obama had been the first to call for Assad to step down, he had a vested interest in seeing the dictator to maintain his rule. The U.S. has led an international military campaign to defeat Daesh in Iraq and Syria since September 2014 but in the meantime they closed their eyes to Assad's crimes against humanity.
Obama abandoned the Syrian people, who his administration encouraged to fight Assad in the first place. He ignored his own "red lines" after the 2013 Eastern Ghouta chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people.
Obama first announced that the nuclear negotiations with Iran had started during his live speech in which he said he decided to work on a deal with Moscow to remove and destroy the regime's chemical stockpiles.
The Assad regime had quickly violated the deal and continued to use chemicals, but he chose to ignore it. That was just one of the preliminary consequences of the Iran deal. The Iran deal sadly caused Assad a sigh of relief at the end, disappointing a considerable number of diplomats and experts tracking Syria who argued that the U.S. surely would also convince Iran to cut, or at least decrease, its support to Assad. It didn't.
Iran's expansion in the conflict zones and violence it spread was widely overseen by Obama administration. The U.S. was busy helping the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the Syrian offshoot of the outlawed PKK, under the name of "fighting Daesh" in northern Syria; it ignored Iran's aggression as long as Iran stayed out of its business. The price for reaching a deal with Iran was leaving the Syrian opposition alone, with no support, and it was paid by millions of Syrians. So, the true casualties of the Iran deal have been the Syrian people – and not Israel.
U.S. President Donald Trump announced this week that he would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal as he's been saying since he took office. His decision has been welcomed by Israel and Saudi Arabia, but it looks like it will not make anyone else happy, especially the Syrians.
Israel carried out a new airstrike on Damascus, targeting Iranian missiles and killing at least eight Iranians, according to reports, just an hour after Trump's announcement.
We should expect Iran to retaliate. As Iran has recruited at least 80,000 Shiite paramilitary fighters in Syria to shore up the Syrian government, it will not be surprising to see increasing aggression between Israel and Iran. Israeli officials have always said that they will never let Tehran and Hezbollah establish a permanent military presence in Syria. As such, for the first time we can actually say that Israel and Iran are really close to direct conflict following a series of high-profile clashes in recent months. It would be a mistake to think that the U.S.'s withdrawal from the Iran deal will stop Tehran from carrying out attacks against Israel; instead it will be more provocative.
Trump keeps saying that he wants to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as possible. However, Iran can be trouble for the 2,000 U.S. troops deployed in northern and eastern Syria to support the People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters. That means more clashes are on the way for Syria. Amidst all the chaos, it looks like the Syrian people will pay the price for Trump's withdrawal from the Iran deal, just like they paid for Obama's agreement.
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