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Friday, September 26, 2014

Should U.S. Invite Iran To Join Anti-IS Coalition?

Link: Iran And The Nuclear Issue: Has IS Made All Things Negotiable?

(Terrorist groups cannot be defeated.  They must be destroyed, obliterated, erased to the last man and woman.  The one that is left alive may be the one with the silver tongue and the gift of manipulation.  In a matter of months you have the same problem all over again.*)

(This part of the world is a bad place for long memories.*)

First and foremost, can we all agree on what to call the Islamic State of the Levant?  I'm still hearing ISIS, the Administration seems stuck on ISIL, and those of us reasonable folks in the blogosphere prefer simply the Islamic State (IS).  Yesterday I wrote a wonderful post focusing on the various independence movements in Europe and what can be expected following the Scotland referendum.  And no one noticed.  Okay, my close friends, who are always ready to lend support, and few new acquaintances I've met through the blog, had a look.  But that's about it.  Interestingly enough, when I post comments on IS or Ukraine, I get a very healthy response.  I get the message.  But the reality is, I will not be posting about terrorism everyday.  I am interested in events on every continent.  The world is full of juicy stuff to discuss.  So forgive me in advance if I post about elections in Kenya or instability in Thailand.  Hopefully I will attract more and more viewers who, like me, see the world as one big neighborhood.  Its best to think that way, because in 2014, you never know when your neighbors are going to show up for a visit.

The air campaign to disrupt the activities of IS has begun.  Today, the Iraqi Prime Minister announced publicly that our efforts so far had been "just for show".  Jeez, these Iraqis are an ungrateful lot.  The bombings conducted to date have not been "just for show".  I guess he was pissed that all the targets were in Syria.  God forbid that the Iraqi Army go in and take care of its own business.  A strategic review of the targets (which probably shouldn't be available to the press, but what heck, its there so I'm gonna look at it) demonstrated that a plan has been formulated to sever the communication and supply lines of the IS.  Even more promising, the air campaign is targeting oil fields that were being exploited by IS (I'm still bloody curious to know who was purchasing the oil; it could've been the French- does anyone smell cheese?). 

On Fox News today, Rear Admiral John Kirby was very clear in repeating the Administration's policy of "no U.S. ground troops", so until the New Syrian Army is ready for combat (4 months?), we have to be content with the bombing campaign.  Is it possible that the IS could feel pressure from unexpected enemies?  The New Syrian Army is not the only force opposing the IS.  Discounting the regular Syrian Army, the IS has to contend with the Kurdish Pesh Merga and the Iraqi Army.  At this point, I believe the Pesh Merga has its hands full defending Kurdish territory, and the Iraqi Army has been one tremendous disappointment after another.  Which brings us to Iran.  The Iranians have been keeping a close eye on events in both Iraq and Syria. The IS has definite Sunni sympathies, which explains why Iran dispatched units of the Republican Guard to Iraq last month, ostensibly to protect Shia holy sites.  When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the Iranians were apoplectic.  They were annoyed down to their shorts that once again, "the great Satan" was just a booger-flick away from Teheran.  Interestingly enough, this time around the Iranian government has been much more subdued regarding U.S. military activity in their backyard.  No doubt they would be glad to see the IS destroyed.  This week, Iranian President Rouhani said that he is seeking a "win-win" deal for his nation.  Having the threat of the IS removed and having international approval to expand Iran's nuclear program would definitely qualify as a "win-win" deal.  Not since Rafsanjani has an Iranian diplomat flirted so brazenly with the great Satan.  "Trust building", "cooperation," and "the beginning of mutual cooperation" were key phrases in Rouhani's comments.  If the Iranians are serious, and would join the fight against the IS, just how much freedom of action vis-à-vis the enrichment of uranium are they considering?

The Obama Coalition (40 nations and counting the last I checked) acknowledges that ground forces will eventually be necessary to defeat the IS.  Since the Administration has provided a timetable of "four to five months" training before the New Syrian Army is ready for combat, is it reasonable to consider the idea of Iranian military intervention?  Iran has the military capability to defeat the IS in short order.  During the last year's Islamic Republic Day parade, I think I counted somewhere in the area of fifteen million ready-and-willing members of the Revolutionary Guard (an exaggeration to make a point), so the Iranians clearly have the ground forces.  With the coalition conducting air sorties, the Iranian Army could fold up the IS before the New Syrian Army unpacks its boots.  Is this suggestion really that far-fetched? 

The idea of rapprochement between Teheran and Washington has been floated numerous times.  If the Iranians offered to join the coalition with no preconditions,  the Obama Administration could wrap up this initiative in a nice package.  I must admit, IS or no IS, the world would be a better place if Iran and the United States could bury the hatchet (into the Islamic State instead of each other).  But the Iranians won't join the coalition without serious incentives.  First and foremost, the Iranians want a free hand to enrich uranium as they see fit.  The Iranians know that the European powers would fall in line behind the United States in the UN, if the Americans decided to ease up on the uranium enrichment issue.  It would have been much easier for Obama to have offered such an incentive and relied on the Iranians to deal with IS on the ground (instead of this headache of trying to train the New Syrian Army).  But just how realistic is this scenario?

It will never happen.  In fact, I doubt the Obama Administration ever really gave it much thought.  Even if the United States agreed to allow Iran to enrich as much uranium as it wants, it would be impossible for Iran to climb down the mountain of anti-U.S. rhetoric it has created over the years.  Many of the Iranian people still get off on that "America is the great Satan" stuff (we probably would to if we'd been listening to it non-stop for thirty-five years).  Obama would have a tough sell at home as well.  The American public is aware of Iran's support for Hezbollah and a bunch of other nasty groups.  Interestingly enough, the American people probably would have moved past the memory of the embassy seizure in 1979, except that the Iranians keep reminding us about it.  Americans see Iran for what it is, a Shia Islamic Republic, which continues to repress its own people.  I think Obama would have had great difficulty bringing the Iranians into the coalition, even if he would have convinced the UN and Europe to ease up on the enrichment issue.

I think we are stuck with the new Syrian Army, come what may.  I believe that the United States and Iran will mend fences in my lifetime, but not until a change of government in Teheran.  For now, the Iranians are content to sit back and watch what happens in Syria and Iraq.  The Iranian nuclear program is a subject that deserves its own post.  Keep reading, it will make its appearance soon.

* Quotes from the soon-to-be published "Mukhabarat, Baby!"

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