Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, USA (ret.) in The Weekly Standard on Empowering Iran’s Terrorist In Chief

Note: Lt. Gen. Barbero participated in JINSA’s 2015 Generals and Admirals Program

Empowering the Iranian Who Murdered Americans
By Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, USA (ret.)

Note: Lt. Gen. Barbero participated in JINSA’s 2015 Generals and Admirals Program

Empowering the Iranian Who Murdered Americans
By Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, USA (ret.)

One man was responsible for the deaths or injuries of thousands of American soldiers in Iraq. That same man is responsible for sowing sectarian conflict today in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. And yet, in the nuclear deal with Iran, this man, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, Major General Qassem Suleimani, will have sanctions lifted against him. Indeed, he will receive a large infusion of cash to wreak more havoc and terror. Having served in Iraq, having experienced first-hand his proxy operations against American forces, and having lost men to Gen. Suleimani’s terror operations, I find this offensive.

Preventing a nuclear Iran is a critical national security objective. We should seize any real chance of achieving this goal diplomatically. Whether the agreement negotiated in Vienna, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will keep nuclear weapons out of Iranian hands is a question that should be vigorously debated. But it is appalling that we would agree to lift sanctions on a known terrorist in pursuit of this nuclear deal.

President Obama claims to be under no illusions about the Iranian regime and its murderous activities. Even in defending the JCPOA, he has admitted that, “we’ll still have problems with Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism: its funding of proxies like Hezbollah that threaten Israel and threaten the region, the destabilizing activities that they’re engaging in, including in places like Yemen.”

Behind all these problems stands one organization, and behind that organization, one man. Within the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force is responsible for special operations, including training, arming, and giving instructions to the terrorists, insurgents, and proxies that Iran uses to spread chaos across the Middle East. The head of the Quds Force is Major General Qassem Suleimani.

Shortly after the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Quds Force mobilized and trained Shiite militias within Iraq for the purpose of killing Americans. This proxy campaign against United States forces was abetted by a particularly lethal weapon: explosively formed projectiles (EFPs). A form of roadside bomb with a sophisticated triggering mechanism and the ability to penetrate American armor, EFPs were estimated to account for 20 percent of U.S. deaths. And they came from only one place. “We knew where all the factories were in Iran.” General Stanley McChrystal, then head of the Joint Special Operations Command, told the New Yorker. “The E.F.P.s killed hundreds of Americans.”

There is no doubt within the Intelligence Community that Solemani’s proxy forces in Iraq were trained, equipped, financed and directed by him to bleed American forces; and bleed we did. Of this accomplishment the Iranians were very proud. In 2011, the hardline Iranian newspaper Kayhan published an editorial proclaiming that, “it is undeniable that the Qods Force – and General Qasem Soleymani – have played the most significant role in cutting down to size the U.S. war machine in the Middle East.”

Since our departure, Suleimani has kept busy. In 2011, two Quds Force operatives were charged with trying to blow up the Saudi ambassador to Washington. In 2012, Suleimani assumed personal control over Iranian efforts to prop the Assad regime in Syria, activating Lebanese Hezbollah to assist them, bringing in IRGC troops, and even directing Syrian strategy. And after the Islamic State stormed through northern Iraq in June 2014, Suleimani rode into Baghdad to direct Shiite militias to protect Iranian interests there.

And yet this terrorist will be taken off at least some sanction’s list as part of an agreement that is supposed to be about Iran’s nuclear program. After eight years, without having to demonstrate any change in behavior or remorse for his past crimes, Suleimani will be delisted by both the UN and EU. Arguably, these international measures are even more significant than U.S. sanctions. The UN designation is internationally binding, and the EU sanction ensures that Suleimani does not have access to the financial centers closest to Iran.

But Suleimani will benefit from the deal earlier still. The Iranian regime will receive a cash injection, from unfrozen assets and international investment, worth tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars. “We should expect,” National Security Advisor Susan Rice acknowledged, “that some portion of that money would go to the Iranian military and could potentially be used for the kinds of bad behavior that we have seen in the region up until now.” This nuclear deal will fund and empower Suleimani to boost the Quds Force’s reign of terror and its campaign against American friends and interests in the region.

For a deal that is putatively focused on just Iran’s nuclear program, this empowerment of Iran’s terrorist in chief is inexplicable. For the American families of Suleimani’s casualties, and for those of us who lost friends and comrades at the hands of Suleimani, his inclusion in this deal is a shameful betrayal.

Michael Barbero is a retired U.S. Army lieutenant general who served 46 months over three combat tours in Iraq, including serving as the senior operations officer in Iraq during the surge.

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