Tuesday, June 19 , 2018, 4:37 am | Fair 56º

 
 
 
 

Larry Kudlow: On Iran, David Petraeus Makes Benjamin Netanyahu’s Case

Don’t just rely on Benjamin Netanyahu’s passionate advice to Congress on his way to re-election that Iran is our archenemy. Now we have the counsel of retired Gen. David Petraeus, who gave a remarkable interview last week to the Washington Post. Petraeus agrees with Netanhayhu: Iran, not ISIS, is the real enemy.

His message: “I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran.”

Petraeus adds, “Longer term, Iranian-backed Shia militia could emerge as the pre-eminent power in the country, one that is outside the control of the government and instead answerable to Tehran.”

Netanyahu is arguing against a bad U.S.-Iran deal that might end the economic sanctions and permit Iranian nuclear development after 10 years. (Of course, nobody believes Iran will wait for, or permit, true verification.) But the thrust of the Petraeus interview is that unless U.S. military strategy completely changes, Iran is going to take over Iraq.

Petraeus gives ample evidence of this: These Shiite militias are being run by Iran’s top military man, Gen. Qasem Soleimani. He’s the head of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard. He has been spotted and filmed on the ground in Iraq. And he has been making battlefield tours the way Petraeus did during the surge.

In the Post interview, Petraeus relates a remarkable story: In the midst of the surge, he got a note from Soleimani: “General Petraeus, you should be aware that I, Qasem Soleimani, control Iran’s policy for Iraq, Syria, Lebanaon, Gaza and Afghanistan.”​ Petraeus told the intermediary he could tell Soleimani to “pound sand.”

Overall, Petraeus makes it very clear that the current Iranian regime “is not our ally in the Middle East,” is part of the problem, not the solution, and is “deeply hostile to us and our friends.” Without ever mentioning the name of President Barack Obama, it’s clear that Petraeus is splitting from administration policy.

And isn’t all this what Bibi Netanyahu told the U.S. Congress? Didn’t he say Iran’s goal is to control the whole area, and of course attempt at some point to blast Israel off the face of the Earth?

So why are Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry trying to do business with Iran? If we know who the militias really are and know that Iran wants to take over Iraq and control the whole region, why is the United States talking about lifting economic sanctions and negotiating some sort of accommodationist deal with our arch enemy?

And why is the United States doing this with oil down 50 percent and Iran a high-cost producer? The economic table is set for a catastrophic fiscal blow to Iran — our enemy.

According to a Wall Street Journal news report, Iran needs $130.70 per barrel of oil to balance its budget. But the price of Brent crude is about $55, or roughly 60 percent below what Iran needs. It’s hard to get credible economic numbers for Iran, but it’s a safe guess that the budget is most of the state-run economy. Therefore, cheap oil is deadly for Iran.

So I ask again: Why are we helping them? We’ve got Iran on the ropes. Why loosen the sanctions?

Talking to the Post, Petraeus acknowledges that we moved troops out of Iraq way too soon and in doing so sent a signal of weakness that we were pulling back from the Middle East overall. I would guess that these last-ditch efforts at an Iranian treaty will be perceived as even greater U.S. weakness in the Middle East.

Who knows if this can be stopped. Surely, the Senate must vote on any U.S.-Iran deal. But the conundrum is, if we know Iran is our enemy, if we know Iran wants to conquer the Middle East, if we know Iran wants to destroy Israel, if we know Iran is continuing to develop nuclear weapons, and if we’re hearing all this not just from the Israeli prime minister, who has the burden of defending his nation, but also from a retired general who is out of office and has no skin in the game, why won’t the present administration come to acknowledge the real situation, reverse course, and halt any efforts to placate our arch enemy Iran?

Why do we even have to ask this question?

Larry Kudlow is economics editor at National Review Online, host of CNBC’s The Kudlow Report, and author of the daily web blog Kudlow’s Money Politic$. Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @larry_kudlow, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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