What a difference six weeks make.
Today John Kerry said that the United States is considering a partnership with Iran to stabilize Iraq:
Secretary of State John Kerry cautiously signaled on Monday that the United States would be open to cooperating with Iran militarily in Iraq to beat back al Qaida-inspired fighters who pose an “existential” danger to that war-torn country and may look to target Europe and the United States.
“This is a challenge to the stability of the region. It is obviously an existential challenge to Iraq itself. This is a terrorist group,” Kerry told Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of a State Department conference on saving the world’s oceans.
Prodded on whether the United States would consider cooperating militarily with Iran, Kerry replied: “Let’s see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements.”
But “I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together — the integrity of the country — and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart,” the top U.S. diplomat told Couric.
This is nothing short of a stunning reversal of US policy and the US view of Iran. In April, the State Department published 2013 Country Reports on Terrorism, the official compendium of information on terrorist groups, state sponsors of terrorism, and the activities of our allies to combat terrorism. In that report Iran was labeled as a state sponsor of terrorism. It has this to say about Iran’s activities in Iraq:
Despite its pledge to support Iraq’s stabilization, Iran trained, funded, and provided guidance to Iraqi Shia militant groups. The IRGC-QF, in concert with Hizballah, provided training outside of Iraq as well as advisors inside Iraq for Shia militants in the construction and use of sophisticated improvised explosive device technology and other advanced weaponry.
At this point, I want to point out this factoid. Those of you who followed the run up to the war in Iraq actively, and by that I mean you were an adult at the time, know the left used to insist that Iran would never work with al Qaeda, their “reasoning” being that Shi’a would not help Sunni and Persian would not help Arab. From the same report:
Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain, and refused to publicly identify those senior members in its custody. Iran allowed AQ facilitators Muhsin al-Fadhli and Adel Radi Saqr al-Wahabi al-Harbi to operate a core facilitation pipeline through Iran, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and also to Syria. Al-Fadhli is a veteran AQ operative who has been active for years. Al-Fadhli began working with the Iran-based AQ facilitation network in 2009 and was later arrested by Iranian authorities. He was released in 2011 and assumed leadership of the Iran-based AQ facilitation network.
As the Obama administration is also running guns to al Qaeda fighters in Syria, perhaps they aren’t concerned about this.
That Iran has been actively destabilizing Iraq is hardly news. For instance via The strategy has been to actively encourage sectarian conflict in Iraq as a way of expanding Iranian influence in Shi’a Iraq. The fact that there are al Qaeda operatives in Iran assisting in moving jihadis and weapons to Syria, and we know that jihadis and weapons from Syria are a critical part of the ISIS insurgency it looks like that Iran is playing both ends of the conflict and will be punished by being allowed to pick up the pieces.
This stupid and misguided strategy will make matters worse. Turkey has significant economic and political interests in Nineveh Province. The ISIS insurgency has already taken the capital of that province, Mosul, and put Turkish interests in jeopardy. Turkey also regards Kirkuk as being within its sphere of influence:
A further area of political difﬁculty is the ﬁnal status of the oil-rich Iraqi province of Kirkuk. Turkish ofﬁcials have voiced their concerns over the fate of Kirkuk on a number of occasions, fearing that if Iraqi Kurds annex Kirkuk into their autonomous region, they will eventually want to carve out an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq and thus stoke separatist desires in Turkey’s own Kurdish population. With the aim of preventing such an eventuality Turkey has developed close relations with Turcomen population that lives in Kirkuk in order to inﬂuence the developments and is utilising this small minority as a bargaining chip.
At the same time Turkish-Iranian relations have been under stress:
Iran and Turkey, important trading partners but also rivals for regional influence, have long been at odds over a host of security issues including strident differences over the three-year-old conflict in Syria.
Shiite Tehran has strongly backed its longtime ally President Bashar al-Assad since the start of the uprising against him. Predominantly Sunni Turkey, meanwhile, has been one of Mr. Assad’s fiercest critics, supporting his opponents and giving refuge to rebel fighters.
In Iraq, Iran is seen as a sponsor of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whom Turkey has accused of pursuing a sectarian agenda. Mr. Maliki has accused Mr. Erdogan of meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs and objected to Ankara’s strong backing of the semiautonomous Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq and its push for self-rule.
Inviting the Iranians in a partners must result in inviting the Turks in, too– or see them invite themselves.
From the earliest days of the Obama regime, it has shown itself intellectually and temperamentally unsuited to carry out foreign policy with even our allies, much less an implacable foe like Iran. Having been outmaneuvered and tossed our of Iraq, Obama is now being forced to recognize Iran’s gains and to try to make it look like his idea.