Iraq is falling apart, and Iran is eager to help America save face (again).
Extremist militants from the al-Qaeda offshoot Islamic State of Iraq and ash-Sham (ISIS) have captured Iraq’s second-largest city and have advanced within 60 miles of the capital.
Iran has responded by sending thousands of elite Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) forces and militiamen to Baghdad’s aid, in addition to further mobilizing of the proxy Shia-militias that are already active there.
Furthermore, the U.S. is opening direct dialogue with Iran over the security situation — despite the fact that the IRGC’s slogan is “Death To America” and those Shia-militias boasted about killing Americans during the Iraq War when recruiting fighting forces to support Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
All things considered, Middle East expert Dr. Jonathan Schanzer sees the situation unfolding to Iran’s benefit, at the ultimate expense of the U.S.
“The ISIS crisis in Iraq plays right into Iran’s hand,” Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, told Business Insider. “The regime in Tehran and the regime in Syria have been saying for months that they are the regional players that can help the West in its fight against terrorism.
“Despite the obvious irony — given the grisly terrorism track records of both countries — this may appeal to Washington, which is loathe to enter into new conflicts in the Middle East as it keen to ‘lead from behind.'”
The tempting offer has even reached Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a notorious Iran hawk who now says that the U.S. will need Iran’s help to keep Baghdad from falling.
And the move would fit the Obama administration’s policy over the last few years, which has be to align with Iranian interests across Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq as America attempts to step back from the Middle East and hammer out an Iran nuclear deal.
However, the strategy has thus far backfired as U.S. reluctance regarding Syria created a vacuum filled by jihadists who are now instigating a civil war in Iraq.
“The Obama Administration seeks to disengage from the Middle East and to stay out of conflict. But it is exactly this approach that has yielded the ISIS crisis in Syria and Iraq,” Schanzer said. “At some point, the White House is going to have to realise that hoping for help from the likes of the Turks, the Qataris, the Saudis — and now the Iranians — is not help at all. If we continue to delegate to frenemies and enemies on crucial foreign policy challenges, we’ll only get more of the same.”
Adding to the danger, empowering Iran to counter ISIS comes with its own pitfalls as the U.S. State Department still considers Iran to be a major state sponsor of terrorism.
The enemy of my enemy has an illicit nuclear program, abuses human rights, and has a track record of terrorism a mile long.
— Jonathan Schanzer (@JSchanzer) June 14, 2014
“Iran is undoubtedly looking to become a regional hegemony. The drive for a nuclear weapon is part of this vision,” Schanzer, who is now the vice president of research at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, told BI. “And so is control of territory across the Shia Crescent [which stretches from Iran to the Mediterranean coast in Lebanon]. Iran continues to make incremental moves in this direction. Preventing this must be part of the U.S. strategy in the Middle East.”
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