Rubio, Experts Rip Obama Administration for Trivializing Iranian Influence in Syria

Dec 13
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  Calls Iranian General Assad's very own "Mussolini."
Calls Iranian General Assad's very own "Mussolini."

The Weekly Standard

By JENNA LIFHITS

Monday, 12 December 2016

The Obama administration is downplaying Iran's role in atrocities committed by the Syrian regime in order to avoid endangering last summer's landmark nuclear deal, a top lawmaker and experts tell THE WEEKLY STANDARD.

Recent reports peg the death toll of Iranian soldiers killed in Syria at more than 1,000, while others have documented a broad range of Iranian assets in the country. The Iranians have also boasted about recruiting and supplying Shia fighters in Syria, imported from across the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia.

But longstanding congressional concerns that the Obama administration is minimizing the significance of Iranian aggression deepened late last week, after State Department spokesman John Kirby described Iran's role in propping up the Assad regime as "certainly more of an advisory mission" during an interview on Friday.

, ripped the administration over the comments, which some characterized as an attempt to downplay Tehran's destabilizing activities and dampen legislative efforts targeting Iran.

"[General Qasem] Soleimani is merely an advisor to Assad just like Mussolini was merely an advisor to Hitler. The Obama administration's naiveté regarding Assad's biggest backers, Iran and Russia, is truly stunning," said Rubio, who has called for new measures to push back against Iran.

A senior congressional aide used a different comparison to suggest that the administration is playing down Iran's support for the Syrian regime in a last-ditch effort to protect relations with Tehran.

"Iran is playing an 'advisory role' in Syria like ‎Colonel Sanders plays an 'advisory role' at the chicken coop. The administration is either lying to the American people to protect its rapidly-deteriorating relationship with Tehran, or these folks have actually begun to believe their own propaganda," the aide said. "I'm not sure which is more frightening."

The Associated Press reported in October that the Obama administration was broadly resisting congressional moves to impose sanctions relating to Syria because they might hurt Iran and give the Iranians an excuse to walk away from the nuclear deal.

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