WASHINGTON — Iran has failed to shape Iraq into an “client state” in its own image and will lose one of its few remaining allies as “inevitable” change comes to Syria, a top US official said Tuesday.
US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said Iran was also increasingly isolated in its own neighborhood, in a firm defense of President Barack Obama’s drive to punish Iran for its nuclear program.
Donilon said Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were increasingly headed for confrontation amid fissures developing in the ruling class under the pressure of Western sanctions.
“Just as the regime is increasingly isolated and losing its legitimacy at home, Iran is increasingly isolated in the region. The regional balance of power is tipping against Iran,” Donilon said at the Brookings Institution.
“Next door, Iran has failed in its effort to shape Iraq into a client state in its own image,” Donilon said, weeks before the last US troops leave Iraq.
“In fact, Iraqis are moving in the opposite direction — building a sovereign, democratic state with a strong aversion to illicit outside interference.
“Iraq and Iran have very different visions of their future.”
The United States has repeatedly accused elements of the Iranian government and elite Revolutionary Guards of arming Iraqi factions hostile to Washington’s military presence in Iraq.
Fears have mounted in Washington that Iran could exploit a security vacuum following the departure of all US forces from Iraq by the end of the year, after talks failed on an extended American training mission in the country.
Donilon spoke a day after the United States, Canada and Britain imposed new sanctions targeting Iran’s finance and petrochemical sector following reports by the UN nuclear watchdog of “credible” evidence on Tehran’s nuclear weapons work.
Iran dismissed the report as “baseless” and biased. It insists its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful, civilian purposes.
Donilon also said that Iran had failed in its efforts to intimidate Gulf states, saying Gulf Cooperation Council members were more willing than ever to challenge Tehran.
“Iran is basically down to just two principal remaining allies — the Assad clique in Syria and Hezbollah. And, like Iran, they too are fundamentally at odds with the democratic forces now sweeping the region.
“The handwriting is on the wall. Change is inevitable,” said Donilon, adding the demise of President Bashar al-Assad’s regime would constitute Iran’s “greatest setback in the region” and restack the balance of power.
Earlier however, there were new signs of a cracking in the united front against Tehran that has permitted four rounds of UN Security Council sanctions, as Russia also criticized the Western sanctions.