The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend

June 16, 2014

The situation in Iraq is dire. It is now in the midst of a sectarian civil war which will inevitably involve several more Middle Eastern countries in some form or another. Already Qassim al-Suleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds force is said to be in Baghdad along with members of the Revolutionary Guard directing operations and preparing for battle with ISIS. If the Iranians appear to the Saudis, Qataris and other UAE nations etc to be exerting excessive control and influence in Iraq they will start to worry and may end up funding any Sunni group fighting in Iraq. In any event ISIS seems to be very well funded and its horrific slaughter of the Shia Iraqi soldiers it captured shows what its intentions are as far as the Shias are concerned. If reports of the amount of money ISIS has access to are accurate, with some suggestions of it potentially having $1.5billion then the wars in Iraq and Syria will be long drawn out affairs and very bloody.

What will be interesting to see is how the Iraqi Sunnis not aligned to ISIS or Al Qaeda will now respond. Previously they fought groups such as Al Qaeda and more or less defeated them – this time it is doubtful they will side with Nouri al-Maliki’s government which has been very sectarian in its dealings with them. If groups such as the Naqshbandi Army and Ansar al-Sunnah Army align themselves with ISIS with some suggestions of this having already occured then the Iraqi government is unlikely to survive without extensive help from the Iranians especially as the US and UK have categorically ruled out any military intervention.

The West and in particular the United States had an opportunity when the Assad regime used chemical weapons against its own people to launch air strikes and support moderate forces in Syria which would have in all probability led to the downfall of the Assad regime. The West backed away and the support the Assad regime received from Iran allowed it to cling to power with the effect that moderate forces in Syria gradually became marginalised by groups such as ISIS whose brutality and success against anyone it fought led to more recruits to its cause and to its inevitable move into Iraq to cut off supplies to the Assad regime, widen its war against the Shias and try and establish a caliphate.

The west unless it intervenes militarily or starts to arm a particular group has its hands tied and is not in any position to do anything meaningful. And it is for that reason that the US is considering talks with Iran….the enemy of my enemy is my friend and no longer evil! Realpolitik or an acknowledgement that the US policy on Syria has spectacularly backfired? What happens in the short term in Iraq is now going to be more important to how events will unfold in the Middle East than what happens in Syria.


Obama U-turn

September 17, 2009

President Obama is to scrap the European missile defence shield which is a major break with the Bush administration and a feather in the cap of Russian intransigence diplomacy. The scrapping of the defence shield is a major triumph for the tough stance the Russians adopted and will give them renewed confidence in any future military/NATO dealings. The Czechs and the poles have been left in limbo and will feel that their defence is not the same priority under President Obama as it was under the previous administration. They will also now have to deal more cautiously with a confident and aggressive Russia.

And perhaps the most important factor in this is the impact of this decision on the Iranians. What should we read into this policy reversal as far as the Iranian nuclear issue is concerned? Does this decision indicate that Washington doesn’t think Iran will in the immediate future acquire a nuclear weapon or does it mean that it is inevitable that the Iranians will acquire a nuclear weapon but that it will leave it to others at a regional level such as the Israelis to contain and deal with? If it is the latter then this is a seriously significant shift in US foreign policy.


Clerics Challenge Ayatollah

July 6, 2009

The death of Michael Jackson knocked the situation in Iran off the main slot in the news media. At the time, the police were restoring their control after the mass demonstrations and once control was regained, we started hearing noises from the Clergy and others that the demonstrations were treasonous plots to overthrow the Government and those involved should be tried for treason. It sounded very familiar and with the foreign media being monitored and restricted in their movements we expected a firm crackdown by pro government militia and the Police.

However it is being reported that that the Clerics in the city of Qom who are regarded as the most influential of all Clerics in Iran have declared President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election to be illegitimate and have condemned the crackdown against those protesting. This is highly significant and is akin to a direct challenge to the authority of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and will no doubt be a huge fillip to those who are claiming the election was rigged. Whether the Clerics in Qom are able to do anything more than make a statement is debatable. I doubt if their comments will lead to a recount of the votes or a new election but their statement is significant and may ensure that the expected crackdown against those demonstrating isn’t brutal and that any future elections will be fairer and more closely monitored. It’s a small step but nevertheless very significant.