I’m going to move back to discussing Israeli politics and US-Israel relations, which are the primary purposes of this blog, soon. But I would be remiss to not at least try to get the reader to take a look at Julie Lenarz’s piece in The National Interest today, on potential US-Iran coordination in Iraq. The piece is a good primer on current events in Iraq, but the concluding two paragraphs are the most important:
“First, ISIS is not a product of intervention in Iraq, but rather nonintervention in Syria. Iraq’s problems cannot be fixed without finding a new approach to the ongoing slaughter in Syria. Otherwise, we are treating the symptoms but not the cause. Assad has been allowed to act with impunity for far too long, dragging the region into the abyss. Iraq and Syria are in disintegration and the Lebanese, Turks and Jordanians have reached the breaking point of their capacities with thousands of refugees pouring into their countries every day.
“Second, Maliki’s politics of sectarianism have created a climate of fear and hatred in which groups, such as ISIS, can flourish. While Saddam brutally persecuted the Shia, Kurds and other minorities, Maliki has turned the tables and now suppresses the Sunni. The status quo is simply not sustainable. We now have an opportunity to put pressure on his government and make any assistance we give him in the fight against ISIS conditional upon reconciliation with the Sunni community. We must not fall victim to the Iranian trap and maneuver ourselves into a grotesque position where Iran expands its sphere of influence under U.S. drone cover in Iraq. The introduction of Iran into the conflict will only intensify the Sunni-Shia schism that is already ripping the region apart.”
According to the New York Times, Iran now believes, as a result of the crisis in Iraq, they have newfound leverage in the Vienna nuclear talks, set to expire July 20th:
“One expert who has periodically advised the American negotiating team said there was already ‘a recognition the Iranians will try to milk any help on Iraq to get any advantage they can’ as they haggle with the lead negotiators over how much of their nuclear infrastructure can remain if a final nuclear agreement is reached.”
That the Iranian negotiators believe this is strong evidence for Ms. Lenarz’s assertion that recent Iranian entreaties are a trap. If anything, they should be offering nuclear concessions, not the other way around. Iran and its main proxy, Hezbollah, are already spending boatloads in Syria. And Nouri al-Maliki is their man in Iraq. Our interest in Iraq is making sure it doesn’t become a de facto terrorist state the way Afghanistan did in the 1990s. Iran’s interest is to make sure that a largely Shiite government, like Maliki’s sectarian cabinet, is in charge. This runs counter to President Obama’s demand of a diverse government, a prerequisite for any American involvement.
We should not be helping Iran achieve its hegemonic objectives. The only scenario worse than this is helping Iran achieve its hegemonic objectives, and paying for the dubious privilege in increased Iranian nuclear capability.