Iran offers help in Iraq. Just say ‘no’

Over the weekend, news broke that the United States is planning on discussing the growing chaos in Iraq with the government of Iran. Iran has already offered to send in its elite IRGC troops to help counter the Sunni al Qaeda offshoot, ISIS, that is spreading across Iraq with little resistance from Iraq’s own armed forces. Three points:

  1. Iran’s own offer is a classic Tehran style operation, the analog of its behavior in Beirut in the 1980s, when Iranian proxies took dozens of hostages (including Americans) and Iran offered to help “negotiate” for their release. The regime of the Islamic Republic is in large part to blame for the chaos now engulfing the region. The people of Syria took to the streets to overthrow Iranian protégé Bashar el Assad. If Iran had simply stepped aside, a peaceful revolution might have taken place in Syria. Instead, Iranian troops, advisers, proxies and arms flowed into Syria, helping ignite the civil war that has claimed 160,000 lives. That war, and the Sunni extremists that joined the battle, were the spark that ignited the flames now sweeping Iraq. Of course, there are other circumstances, including Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki’s own political mistakes, as well as Barack Obama’s decision to ignore growing turmoil in the region, but Iran has played no small part in the tragedies now unfolding.
  2. The notion that somehow a US-Iranian compact will come into force to bring peace to the Middle East is the confirmation of a loony conspiracy theory that has swept the Sunni Arab world, namely that Barack Obama is working secretly behind the scenes with Iran to conspire to allow Tehran to dominate the region so the United States can withdraw. While the theory itself has little merit (though not none), and the Obama administration has done a good deal to fan its flames (including secret meetings with Iranian officials and lies to Arab allies about those meetings), the notion that the Obama administration believes it wise to consult with Iran about stabilizing Iraq is crazy. The regime in Iran is one of the most dangerous forces in the world today. They are not partners, they are enemies, and even the Iraqis know it.
  3. Here’s what Iraqi aide to PM Maliki Ali al Musawi told the Washington Post: “We have received a lot of offers of help, but we want support through legal channels and not in a way that would provoke sensitivities.” What Musawi understands, but perhaps the White House does not, is that Iran is not interested in balancing sectarian interests in Iraq. So, despite the fact that the president on Friday demanded that PM Maliki open his administration to disenfranchised Sunnis, later in the weekend, his administration appeared open to an approach that would ensure that no such opening is possible. And one thing is certain: Iran has been behind many of the sectarian choices of the Maliki government. But now they can be constructively engaged to help remedy that problem? Oh please.


It’s not clear exactly what the Obama team is planning. Secstate Kerry has voiced some caution about mixing nuclear talks, Iraq and Syria in the ongoing dialogue with Iran over its nuclear program. Then again, there are few limits to the arrogance of this administration, or its confidence in its ability to manage events. The reality, of course, is that both Iran and Sunni extremists have proven themselves shrewder and more determined than team Obama.

Follow AEIdeas on Twitter at @AEIdeas.


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