As chaos and bloodshed have spread in the Middle East the White House is facing heavy pressure from its traditional Sunni Arab allies, Congress and some in the U.S. military to confront Iran more forcefully over its support for militant groups, the Washington Post reports.
Although the U.S. has supported the Saudi-led attacks in Yemen with intelligence and logistical help, and in Iraq, has pressured Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to disentangle Iranian-backed groups from government forces in exchange for the firepower of U.S. warplanes over the city of Tikrit, the critics of Administration believe the push to confront the Iranian regime has come too late.
Some former senior U.S. military commanders, meanwhile, said they have been warning for years of the need to do more to deal with what they see as Iran’s efforts to sow chaos through its armed proxies, the Post reported.
Ret. Marine Gen. James Mattis, who oversaw U.S. forces in the Middle East from 2010 to 2013, was among the most insistent voices inside the U.S. military pushing for a policy focused on punishing Iran and its proxies.
Former defense officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss policy deliberations has said that Mattis ‘pressed for more covert actions to capture or kill Iranian operatives, especially after the foiled 2011 plot by Iran to kill the Saudi ambassador at a Washington restaurant.’
According to the Washington Post, 'Middle East experts said the Obama administration’s efforts to avoid wading into sectarian civil war has unnerved the closest U.S. allies and emboldened Iran.'
“A vacuum was created that Iran exploited,” Martin Indyk, executive vice president of the Brookings Institution and Obama’s former Middle East envoy, wrote in an e-mail. “Now we have to make a choice. Not taking a stand in Syria was the original mistake that helped to open the gates of hell.”