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.

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