President Donald Trump has scored a major foreign policy success in recent weeks, as Iran has reportedly begun pulling its forces out of Syria slowly. The likely reason: economic pressure caused by U.S. sanctions makes it impossible for Iran to continue.
Under the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, which former Vice President Joe Biden wants to restore if he wins the November election, the Iranian regime received billions of dollars in cash and access to assets worth potentially up to $150 billion.
The Obama administration admitted that some of the money could be spent on Iran’s military adventures abroad, as well as terrorism. Indeed, a major criticism of the Iran deal was that it did not address Iran’s behavior in the region.
President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran deal and imposed new sanctions on Iran — including for its abuses of human rights. Early this year, the White House argued that the policy was “working” — against criticism by the media and the opposition, who argued that Iran had only escalated its attacks on the U.S. and American allies in the region.
But after Trump ordered a successful airstrike on Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qasem Soleimani, Iran only managed a limited response. Moreover, Israel conducted airstrikes on Iranian forces to prevent them from giving advanced weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon. And as the coronavirus pandemic struck Iran hard, the country could no longer afford to keep its troops in the field.
Initially, when Israeli officials began claiming several days ago that Iran had begun leaving Syria, the media were skeptical. Reuters reported that there was no evidence to support the claim.
On Thursday, the Israeli military provided evidence to reporters. The Associated Press reported:
Iran is slowly pulling out of Syria in response to Israeli strikes, as well as growing domestic discontent linked to the economy and its handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Israeli military said Thursday.
The Israeli military described the withdrawal as “a backward movement from various locations to other locations that are further away and in reduced numbers.” It said the movement was ”not massive, not overwhelming,” but that it was also “undeniable.”
The military shared its findings in a briefing with reporters and said they were based on classified intelligence, without elaborating.
The military partly attributed the pullback to growing discontent in Iran, where the economy has cratered under U.S. sanctions and authorities have struggled to contain the deadliest coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East.
Iran’s withdrawal from Syria is a big win for Trump — and could portend further changes, perhaps within Iran itself.
Meanwhile, Biden proposes to return to the Iran deal — which means dropping sanctions and letting the regime recover. Biden has not specified if he would demand anything more in return other than a mere promise to conduct more talks.
Small wonder, then, that Iran prefers Biden to win the 2020 election, as the New York Times recently reported. While the regime will be no friendlier to an America led by Biden, it knows that Trump is the only real threat to its power.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). His new book, RED NOVEMBER, is available for pre-order. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.