ISIS is working towards the fulfillment of her own goals and visions in both Iraq and Syria, irrespective of what other forces on the ground want. For this, its leaders are willing to enter into all different sorts of transitional alliances. In Iraq, they are now clearly coordinating with other Sunni forces and groups in the offensive to wrest control of the western parts where Sunni Arabs make up the majority.
But in Syria, the situation is different. A certain convergence of interests between the regime and ISIS has been shaping the current policies of each vis-à-vis the other, and an element of coordination in the fight against other rebel groups can be detected. For this, as well as for its overall vision and methods, ISIS is hated by other rebel groups, not to mention the majority of the civilian population where they are in control, due to the imposition of their own harsh and primitive version of the Sharia.
To any observers, however, the ongoing coordination between ISIS and the regime in Syria is leading them to believe that ISIS leaders are either agents of the Assad regime or Iran. As such, they seem to think of the current developments in Iraq as reflecting an Iranian ploy to find common grounds with the United States, especially as the two sides are engaged in serious negotiations in Geneva. This is simplistic thinking, however, and ignores the major costs incurred by Iran as a result of this latest Sunni push.
Allowing thousands of rebels to enter a city, retrench and embed themselves among the local population is not a situation that can easily be reversed later. In the city of Homs in Syria a few hundred rebels have managed to keep a loyalist force of over 20,000 Syrian loyalist and foreign Shia mercenaries at bay for two years, despite massive indiscriminate attacks against the local Sunni and Christian population. Those who claim that Iran’s goal is to ultimately get the U.S. to bomb these cities are simply ill-informed, and fail to understand America’s military philosophy. President Obama is currently having a hard time selling the American people on the legality of drone attacks, on account of the collateral damage they cause to the civilian population. The massive air campaign that will be required to dislodge Sunni rebels from Mosul and other “fallen” towns would too costly in human and material terms to be justified.
Meanwhile a ground assault by Maliki troops, even if bolstered with Iranian counterparts, would be costly to them and would take too long to come to fruition. The cities may not want to be retaken. Nor will the U.S. agree to supply Iraq with air planes and missiles if the purpose is to use them for indiscriminate bombing of cities. For what guarantees can the Malik government provide that these weapons wouldn’t fall into the hands of the very Sunni rebels the U.S. wants to see defeated? After all, when Mosul fell, large stockpiles of heavy weapons fell into Sunni rebel hands, including those of ISIS members.
Still, Iran is indeed trying to curry favor with the U.S. at this stage by leveraging the current developments in Iraq during the current negotiations in Geneva and projecting ISIS as the main player and a common enemy.
“The [Obama] administration’s willingness to let Syria, Iraq and the entire Middle East in fact, go to hell in a hand basket is quite genuine. It’s not an act or a tactic. The administration’s officials are hoping that their Iranian negotiating counterparts would finally realize that and begin making concessions where they count.”
But, even for this administration, such development will not constitute sufficient grounds for rapprochement and cooperation. The Obama Administration does not want concessions from Iran on Syria and Iraq. Rather, they need concessions in connection to Iran’s nuclear program, and nowhere else. The administration’s willingness to let Syria, Iraq and the entire Middle East in fact, go to hell in a hand basket is quite genuine. It’s not an act or a tactic. The administration’s officials are hoping that their Iranian negotiating counterparts would finally realize that and begin making concessions where they count, so that Iran could obtain America’s help in Syria and Iraq, and not the other way around. Because it’s Iran that actually needs help there to save her allies and prevent herself from getting pulled further into the coalescing quagmires in the two countries. The two conflict zones represent a continuing drain on Iranian budget and resources. The nuclear program of course is another drain. The sanctions – a fourth. Iran cannot offset the cost of all this for long.
Still, the Administration will not get her way, because she has amply demonstrated her toothlessness over the last few years, and there is simply nothing that repulses Middle Eastern men than a toothless hag. Even if Iran wants to make concessions, she cannot make them to an administration that has proven herself weak, indecisive, untrustworthy and willing to turn her back on her allies, especially those who happen to be of Middle Eastern descent.
Moreover, Iran is incapable of reversing course at this stage, neither in regard to her nuclear program, nor her involvement in Iraq and Syria. There are simply too many divisions in the ruling establishment, and only radical stands could keep the system from imploding, until, of course, it does. Iran might just develop her first nuclear weapon in time to celebrate her own implosion.
And America will soon find herself having to manage a much larger mess than anyone has anticipated. Or, will this development prove surprising as well, for America’s $50 billion intelligence industry?