Why The USA Should Save Iraq From ISIS and Republican Iran

The crisis situation in Iraq has inevitably resulted in the assertion that it was inherently wrong for the United States led coalition in 2003 to have liberated that nation from Saddam Hussein’s tyranny. This analysis has in turn led to an implicit, if not actual, opposition to the United States taking military action via air support for the Maliki government in Baghdad against the brutal fighters of the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

This is despite the fact that ISIS troops may very well take the Iraqi capital as a prelude to inflicting a bloodbath similar to what the genocidal Khmer Rouge guerrillas did after April 1975 following the fall of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penn.

Unfortunately, the so-called ‘Vietnam Syndrome’, which is a neo-isolationist mindset that has often paralysed American foreign policy, is again preventing the United States from taking military action which could prevent a humanitarian disaster and a colossal undermining of America’s position in the world. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama’s reluctance to authorize clinical and precise *air strikes against ISIS is a manifestation of the Vietnam Syndrome which also threatens to allow republican Iran to gain control of Iraq and consolidate its position in Syria.

(*It has been argued that the United States should not undertake aerial bombing because they could be inaccurate. It is an open secret that during the Iran-Iraq War the Soviet Union provided Iraq with space satellite intelligence which was invaluable. Therefore it is possible for US space satellites and other forms of technological intelligence to be utilized so that precise and expeditious American aerial bombing of ISIS military positions can be undertaken).

Rafsanjani’s Strategic But Diabolical Brilliance

The leadership of republican Iran, under the strategic guidance of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, is using President Obama’s irresolution in Iraq as an opportunity to take control Iraq and therefore consolidate Tehran’s dominance in the oil producing Middle East. It is due to this acute danger that the United States must provide expeditious air support to the beleaguered Iraqi government no matter how flawed its prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, may be.

A major problem which the Vietnam Syndrome has often inflicted on the leadership of the United States has been a tendency to shy away from analysing the complexities of the historic and contemporary situation of a nation in which America has become involved in. This was the case with regard to Iran following militant students overrunning the American Embassy in Tehran in November 1979. At the time the Carter administration correctly considered the then prime minister of Iran, Mehdi Bazargan to be a relative political moderate. Bazargan had been ‘appointed’ by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini upon his return from exile in February 1979.

Ayatollah Khomeini’s appointment of Bazargan in early 1979 had been undertaken to fatally split the liberal camp which the Shah of Iran had ceded power to in January of that year by appointing *Shapour Baktiar to head the government. The new prime minister blundered badly by creating a power vacuum within the still formidable military by compelling the Shah of Iran to go into exile and then allowing Khomeini to fill this vacuum by returning in early February from his Paris exile.

(*Although Baktiar’s tenure as premier had been brief, he nevertheless established himself as the political heir to the former liberal-nationalist prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh. As such, Baktiar became a powerful symbol of the promise of a future democratic Iran that after numerous attempts, he was finally assassinated by agents of republican Iran in France in 1991).

Had Bazargan not foolishly broken with Prime Minister Baktiar then the ruling liberals could have held onto when free and democratic elections to a Constituent Assembly were held. Such elections would have been a giant step forward for the prospects of an Iranian democracy. Having fatally and brilliantly divided Iran’s liberals, Ayatollah Khomeini moved to dispense with them by having left-wing students occupy the American Embassy in November 1979. The major domestic victim of this occupation was the Bazargan government which consequently indignantly resigned in protest.

The initial revolutionary coalition had been an eclectic coalition of political liberals (who had supported the late former prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh) a Marxist orientated Muslim student-led movement and conservative clerics. With the liberals gone, the glue which bound the Marxist orientated People’s Mujahedin organisation (MEK) and the clerical conservatives together was their mutual anti-Americanism. Although Khomeini banned the MEK from running a candidate in Iran’s first presidential election, which was held in January 1980, the then powerful Marxist left was placated by the Ayatollah’s support of the left-wing Bani Sadr who was elected as Iran’s first president.

Hoping to exploit the anti-leftist Iranian military’s antipathy toward President Sadr, Iraq’s Saddam Hussein invaded Iran in September 1980. Hussein believed that the seizure of vast swathes of Iranian territory would unhinge the regime that in the ensuing vacuum the anti- Marxist military would seize power in a coup. The Iranian armed forces instead fought back because they had the capacity to do so due to the Shah’s former purchases of extensive amounts of military equipment.

The Shah had previously determined that the military formidableness of the armed forces would not be matched by any corresponding political clout. The Shah had delegated responsibility for political repression and security to the secret police, SAVAK. Therefore, with the explosion of civil unrest in 1978, coupled with the monarch’s circumventing the power of SAVAK (undertaken to placate President Carter), left the Shah in an untenable position. Furthermore, due to an almost paranoid fear of a coup, the Shah instituted an elaborate rotation of commands, authorization of unit movements and division of command structures. As a result of the intricate manoeuvres that the Shad had previously undertaken, the upper echelons of the armed forces were derived of any capacity to fill the vacuum after their sovereign had departed into exile.

Even though the Ayatollah Khomeini had cultivated the persona of a Gandhi type figure in exile, one of first actions he undertook after prevailing against Baktiar in February 1979 was to swiftly execute the senior ranks of the armed forces. The top-down nature of the Iranian armed forces had been such that a vacuum was created which made it practically impossible for the junior officer ranks to resort to a military coup in the early phases of the Khomeini regime. The new regime to safeguard against a possible military coup, also instituted the formation of a militia in May 1979 which became known as the Revolutionary Guards.

The Revolutionary Guards initially helped maintain internal security, but at this point was not a sufficiently strong counter force against a possible military coup being staged by the armed forces. However, the regular Iranian armed forces were then too disorientated by the fall of the Shah to attempt a coup. Anyway, an attempted military coup would have been effectively countered by massive demonstrations led by pro-Bani Sadr university students, who had initially undertaken the seizure of the American Embassy.

The student led political left initially rallied to the regime against the Iraqi invasion. However, as the war progressed, conservative working class men went to the front to help swell the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards that they eventually became a formidable fighting force in their own right. This expansion of the Revolutionary Guards and the galvanizing of conservative working class support derived from support for the war effort, gave Ayatollah Khomeini the capacity to move against President Bani Sadr.

The impeachment/ removal of President Bani Sadr in June 1981 effectively marked the point at which Khomeini moved against a then powerful Islamic Marxist left. The deposition of President Sadr was engineered by Hashemi Rafsanjani, the then Speaker of the Iranian Parliament (the Majles). Rafsanjani had been one of the prime movers behind the founding of the clerical organised Islamic Republican Party (IRP) which had won a landslide election in parliamentary elections in August 1979. A contributing factor to this victory (to say the least) was the barring of the MEK from participating in these polls. While the left were put out by their prescription from participating in the 1979 parliamentary elections, they (i.e. the MEK) were conciliated by the fact that the immensely popular Bani Sadr would be allowed to participate in the presidential elections scheduled for January 1980.

Indeed, the MEK backed Sadr (who ran as an ostensible independent) won in a landslide with over 75% of the vote with the IRP presidential candidate coming a distant third. Consequently, Sadr’s parliamentary removal in June 1981 precipitated a popular left-wing revolution against the Khomeini regime. However, the strength with which the Iran-Iraq War had endowed the expanding Revolutionary Guards with, combined with the regime’s counter-mobilization capacity amongst substantial sections of a pro-war working class enabled Khomeini to ride out and ultimately defeat the MEK inspired *revolution by 1982.

(*The regime’s predilection toward violence was reinforced by the assassinations in a bomb blast in late August 1981 of Sadr’s successor as president Mohammad Ali Rajai and his prime minister, Mohammad Javad Bahonar).

It was also by 1982 that the dogged determination of the Iranian armed forces (including the Revolutionary Guards) had driven the Iraqis out of Iran that it could have been legitimately said that Tehran had won the Iran-Iraq War. However, the objective for Ayatollah Khomeini was to facilitate the spread of Shia (or Shiite) Islam to become the dominant political force in the Middle East. Therefore it was essential to Khomeini that Iraq be conquered (or’ liberated’ from the Ayatollah’s perspective) because this nation has a Shiite majority.

Often protracted wars are such a burden that there is eventually a strong disincentive against waging them. However, as far as Khomeini was concerned, his nation’s bigger population and larger industrial capacity would be harnessed to eventually overcome that of Hussein’s Iraq that victory would eventually be achieved. To harness republican Iran’s comparative industrial and economic advantages, Khomeini on the advice of Rafsanjani, instigated the parliamentary election of Mir-Hossein Mousavi as Iran’s new prime minister in 1981.

Under Mousavi’s brilliant economic stewardship, a well organised war economy was developed which vitally helped Iran sustain its war effort against Iraq. Commensurate with the organisation of this war economy were the development of an economic empire dominated by Rafsanjani (who is reputed to be the wealthiest individual in republican Iran) and the expansion of the Revolutionary Guards. These Revolutionary Guards also developed air and sea divisions, to eventually become a force more powerful than the regular armed forces. The Revolutionary Guards were also (and still are) integrated into Iran’s economic system that its corps enjoy the massive corruption spoils which are theirs for the taking.

The political aplomb of Rafsanjani was also apparent in the area of foreign affairs. Iran’s complex, if not opaque leadership structure, resulted in some senior officials in the Reagan administration erroneously believing that they could influence domestic Iranian domestic politics to America’s advantage. With this belief in mind, figures within the Reagan administration tried to secretly sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages held by pro-republican Iran forces in Lebanon. There was also a belief among these Reagan administration officials, including the then National Security Advisor, Robert ‘Bud’ Mc Farlane that establishing a weapons supply conduit to Tehran would help secure the succession of Khomeini’s deputy, the relatively liberal Ayatollah Hussein Ali Montazeri.

Instead, Rafsanjani in October 1986 engineered the public leaking via a pro-republican Iran Beirut newspaper the information concerning the covert arms sales in order to undermine both the United States and Montazeri. The ensuing Iran-Contra Affair had the potential to have been more domestically and internationally damaging to the United States than the so-called Watergate ‘scandal’. Had it not been for President Ronald Reagan’s deft handling of this crisis, then his presidency may have been destroyed and the prestige of the United States undermined to the extent that Eastern and Central Europe may not have broken free in 1989.

Unfortunately, for Ayatollah Montazeri his political skills were not on par with President Reagan’s so that he was dismissed as Khomeini’s deputy in March 1989 and later placed under house arrest as political fallout from the arms sales scheme. The essential point that needs to be made concerning the Iran-Contra Affair and Montazeri’s fall is that Rafsanjani is not a political liberal or moderate, but rather a pragmatist who is still (despite now being an ostensible dissident) determining the strategic leadership direction of republican Iran.

Rafsanjani’s pragmatism had been apparent in September 1988 when he convinced a very reluctant Ayatollah Khomeini to agree to a cease-fire with Iraq which ended the Iran-Iraq War. The then parliamentary Speaker persuaded Khomeini to end the war on the basis that a military victory could not be achieved and that if the nation persisted with the war then the regime could eventually be toppled by latent war weariness. To demonstrate that the regime was not making any domestic compromises or was not internally weakening, hundreds, if not thousands, of political prisoners were promptly massacred throughout Iranian prisons.

The dividends for Rafsanjani of ensuring the regime’s survival by prudently terminating the war against Baathist Iraq and politically eliminating Ayatollah Montazeri was to ensure the succession of President Ali Khamenei (who had been ‘elected’ president in 1981 with Rafsanjani’s support) to the position of Supreme Ruler following Khomeini’s death in June 1989. Rafsanjani himself subsequently moved in August 1989 into the presidency while the position of prime minister, which had been held by Mousavi, was abolished.

The post-1989 structure in which power is shared between a now Ayatollah Khamenei and Rafsanjani is still essentially intact. The fact that Rafsanjani essentially, but covertly, co-rules Iran with Khamenei has been obscured by his (i.e. Rafsanjani) stepping down as president in *1997 and the subsequent presidency of his ostensible rival, Mohammad Ahmadinejad between 2005 and 2013. Although Rafsanjani publicly supported the mass demonstrations (‘the Green movement’) staged in 2009 after President Ahmadinejad had rigged his presidential re- election against former prime minister, Mousavi, his (i.e. Rafsanjani’s) covert power remained intact as reflected by his massive financial interests remaining unscathed.

(*The fact that power is really wielded by a clerical establishment acting in close alignment with the Revolutionary Guards was illustrated during the presidency of Rafsanjani’s successor, avowedly reformist Mohammad Khatami, 1997 to 2005. Despite private presidential protests, liberal inclined mass student-led demonstrations were brutally and effectively crushed by the Revolutionary Guards in 1999).

That Rafsanjani’s presidential candidacy was officially blocked for the 2013 presidential elections bolstered the mis-perception that the former parliamentary speaker does not actually co-rule Iran. Due to the disqualification of a slew of other avowed reformist would be presidential candidates and the overwhelming politically liberal orientation of the Iranian electorate, Hassan Rouhani became the front runner, garnering 51% of the vote against six other conservative rival presidential candidates.

Rouhani won the 2013 presidential election (which in contrast to four years earlier, there was no vote rigging) because he was the only avowed reformist running. Had other reformists being allowed to run, then Rouhani would have been a minor presidential candidate. That Rouhani had this good fortune was not due to good luck, but a result of the machinations of Rafsanjani, who engineered that he would be the only avowed reformist in the presidential race.

To be blunt, Rouhani is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He has been an integral member of republican Iran’s defence establishment as a former secretary of the Supreme National Council and as his nation’s main delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). From his position at the IAEA Rouhani was until his becoming president in 2013, responsible for conducting his nation’s negotiations concerning republican Iran’s atomic program.

By having an ostensible moderate as Rouhani in charge of negotiations concerning republican Iran’s nuclear program, the international community has restrained Israel from undertaking any military action which might prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Rafsanjani’s strategic intention of having Rouhani as president is also to ensure that western sanctions on republican Iran are eased, if not eventually lifted while his nation continues to develop the necessary technology to have nuclear weapons.

However, the recent military successes of ISIS in Iraq have created a new opportunity for republican Iran in that the United States is becoming gullible in believing that there can be cooperation with Tehran to stop these murderous extremists in Iraq. The history of republican Iran’s machinations over the last thirty-four years demonstrate that the Tehran regime nearly always (with the major exception of failing to win the Iran-Iraq War) gets what it wants by maximizing any opportunities. If the Obama administration makes the fatal mistake of treating with republican Iran then that nation will gain full control of Iraq and Syria while also acquiring nuclear weapons.

Is The United States Snatching Defeat From The Jaws of Victory In Iraq?

It is therefore a matter of necessity that the United States undertakes expeditious and clinical air strikes against ISIS so equilibrium is established in the Middle East which ensures political moderation. Due to the mythologies which are being spread concerning the supposedly negative impact of the American led military coalition removing Saddam Hussein a retrospective on what has happened in Iraq both before and after 2003 is undertaken.

One of the first myths which should be debunked concerning Iraq is that subsequent post-2003 events have illustrated that it was correct for the United States to have stood to one side to allow Saddam Hussein to crush the 2001 uprisings against in the wake of his expulsion from Kuwait earlier that year. This perspective is wrong because had the allies provided air cover to the brave Shiites and Kurds who rose up in 2001, then a viable provisional government would have been in place to fill the vacuum.

It was in December 2000 that a wide ranging conference of Iraqi dissidents encompassing Shiites, Kurds, pro-Syrian Baathists, monarchists and secularists was held in Tehran were the outlines of a future post-Hussein provisional government was thrashed out. Such a government would have led Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam’s fall and would have stood an excellent chance of holding the nation together until elections were held to a Constituent Assembly.

While many of the groups within such a provisional government may not have been inherently democratic, political necessity would have been such that differences would have to have been resolved through electoral competition. The emergence of a democracy of such an important Arab nation (with a substantial Kurdish minority) would have considerably advanced the prospects of the Middle East by there being a beacon of hope showing how differences could have been resolved within a rational and considered framework.

Instead, the first Bush Administration’s callousness allowed Saddam Hussein to hold onto power by brutally crushing the Shiites and Kurds and to plunge his nation into socio-economic despair due to the maintenance of international sanctions over the ensuing twelve years (2001 to 2013). The repressive Hussein regime degenerated into a sultanistic tyranny as the distribution of the financial economic spoils was progressively restricted to a narrowing elite. The atrocious situation that every day Iraqis were confronted with was reason enough for there to be international military action to remove the Saddam regime from power regardless of whether there were any Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).

The overriding motivation which probably drove President George Herbert Walker Bush to assemble an international coalition to remove Saddam Hussein from power in 2003 was probably personal. President Bush’s resolution to liberate Iraq could have dated back to the knowledge that in April 1993 a plot was instigated by Saddam Hussein to have former President George Hebert Bush assassinated on a visit to Kuwait. Although the assassination plot was foiled, the younger President Bush was probably not going to allow this to pass so that he determined to eventually remove Saddam Hussein from power.

The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 created the necessary environment for the United States to assemble an international coalition to liberate Afghanistan later that year and the groundwork to similarly free Iraq in 2003. President George W Bush had brought neo-conservatives (the ‘neo-cons’) such as Paul Wolfowitz (who served as Assistant Secretary of Defense) into his administration. While the neo-cons may have been instrumental in public policy in facilitating the liberation of Iraq in 2003 they did so in coalition with foreign policy realists linked to the energy industry (such as then US Vice-President Dick Cheney) who wanted American companies to gain control of Iraq’s massive oil reserves.

For the realists in the second Bush administration, the promotion of democracy and human rights in Iraq was an optional extra. Accordingly, the first major mistake that the United States made after liberating Iraq was to appoint Jay Garner in April 2003 and then Paul Bremmer III the following month to rule Iraq. It was insulting to Iraqi pride to deprive to deprive a nation of its de jure independence (even if on a temporary basis) by appointing foreigners as leaders (who did not even speak Arabic) to rule over their nation. During his over one year in office (May 2003 to early July 2004) Bremmer transferred control of Iraq’s oil industry to foreign (mainly American) interests and pursued a vigorous de-Baathist policy in which former party members were purged from civil service and other senior positions such as in hospitals and universities. Many of the purged officials had joined the Baath Party because it had been compulsory to do so and probably would have adapted and co-operated with the American- led occupation if they had been given the chance to.

The de-Baathisation policies drove many former officials, including ex-security personnel, into a burgeoning Al-Qaeda Jihadist insurgency. This insurgency was also fuelled because it received substantial support from the Sunni minority whose predominance over Iraq following its liberation was ended. The United States also did not help its own cause by the often heavy handed way in which American troops treated *Iraqi civilians because they conceptualized them as a conquered people rather than a population which they had come to liberate.

(*The worst manifestation of a lack of respect for the local population that American military service personnel demonstrated was highlighted by the photos taken in 2003 of abused detainees in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib Prison. The degradation to which the Abu Ghraib prisoners were subjected to, was similar to the Mai Lai massacre in South Vietnam in 1968 in that it was an exception to the rule, however too many Iraqis were consequently alienated from the United States).

The cardinal rule that the United States had violated when it liberated Iraq in 2013 was that it did not adhere to the Hector Godoy precedent it had set in 1965 when an American-led international military force under the auspices of the Organization of American States (OAS) intervened and occupied the Dominican Republic for one year between 1965 and 1966. By installing someone as brilliant as Hector Godoy as provisional president for that one year, the political situation in the Dominican Republic was stabilized so that democratic national elections were successfully held in 1966 which then helped precipitate an expeditious withdrawal of foreign troops.

Washington found the equivalent of an Iraqi version of a Hector Godoy in the person of Ayad Allawi whom the Americans appointed as prime minister in early July 2004. *Allawi is a secular Shiite who had previously been a member of the Baath Party until he broke with the regime in the 1970s and had since lived in exile. Had Allawi been initially appointed to head the Iraqi government in 2003 with national sovereignty continued to be respected, then the vacuum which was consequently created for Al-Qaeda backed insurgency to fill might not have been created.

(*Allawi has also written a biography of Iraq’s first king, Faisal I, which indicates that he might be a sentimental monarchist).

Even though Prime Minister Allawi was handed a poisoned chalice he nevertheless took Iraq in January 2005 through to its first free parliamentary elections since the era of the monarchy. These elections and a further parliamentary poll which was held toward the end of 2005 were unfortunately substantially boycotted by the Sunni minority as part of a strategy of frustrating the emergence of a functional nation which many of them inaccurately associated with Shiite dominance.

The voting patterns were unfortunately along sectarian lines with a Shiite bloc prevailing, resulting in Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Islamic Dawa Party becoming prime minister in May 2005 before giving way of his own volition to his fellow party man, Nouri al-Maliki, in May 2006. That Arab Iraqis voted on religious lines demonstrated how the power of inter-religious clans had so recently broken down. The relatively high Sunni abstention rate seemed to be reflective of the anarchistic violence which seemed to have engulfed Iraq which reinforced the belief of billions of television viewers around the world that the chaos that they saw could not be rationally resolved.

Why President Talabani Must Be Supported At All Costs

However, substantial progress has been made since the 2005 election of Iraqi governments towards establishing a genuine democracy and a functional nation state. Making a pathway to a non-sectarian democracy in Iraq was hampered by communal voting patterns which undermined the emergence of viable democratic political parties which have a national following. To surmount this profound obstacle the United States exerted its influence to help ensure the parliamentary election in April 2005 of Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as titular president of Iraq.

The parliamentary election of Talabani as president has been a masterstroke because he belongs to an ethic group which has a vested interest in ensuring that there is a viable Iraqi nation state. For over one thousand years the Kurds have been without a nation state but had adapted to life under the relatively decentralized Turkish Ottoman Empire so that many of them were taken back by the disintegration of this empire during the First World War. Iraq’s first king, Faisal I ensured that the Kurds’ interests were accommodated as did the strongman of monarchist Iraq between the 1930s and 1958, the great statesman Nuri-as –Said. Even though General Abdel Kassem, the leader of the violent July 1958 military coup was part Kurdish, the advent of the Iraqi republic saw the rights of this nation’s minority regress.

Iraq’s Kurds were in revolt against the Iraqi republic by the 1960s with cease agreements been made with Saddam Hussein in the 1970s temporarily stopping the fighting until circumstances again changed so that violent repression ensued, most notably with the gassing of Iraqi Kurds following the end of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988. The position of Iraq’s Kurds has also been complicated by their proximity to their brethren in neighbouring Turkey, Iran and Syria. Three major Kurdish factions which have emerged are the PUK, the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK) and the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK).

The machinations involving these three Kurdish factions have been as complex as they have been tragic and are therefore to Byzantine to detail. Except to say that since the liberation of Iraq in 2003, the Kurds have found a powerful ally in the United States. President Talabani knows that the best hope for his people (i.e. the Kurds) is to maintain their relatively new (and *democratic) statelet within the north of the nation is to have the support of the United States.

(*The DPK and the PUK know that it would be fatal for their overall interests to carry on their deep ceded differences by resorting to armed conflict so they have sort resolution via electoral competition. Promisingly, a liberal-democratic party in the form of Gorran (‘Change’) has emerged as a viable political party in the Kurdish region of Iraq).

President Talabani has therefore used his considerable influence to not only establish a federal framework but a democratic one in which sectarian differences are resolved within a constitutional context. The president along with Ayad Allawi has been instrumental in ensuring that the national cabinet reflects the sectarian balance of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds and whatever Prime Minister Maliki’s *leadership inadequacies has acquiesced in having a more or less balanced government.

(*Whatever Prime Minister Maliki’s leadership inadequacies, they are really being used as a pretext against undertaking air strikes to stop ISIS because of the Obama administration is infected with the Vietnam Syndrome).

Even though the current Iraqi armed forces are predominately Shiite, President Talabani has served as an important symbol of constitutional legitimacy that most army officers (unless there is a radical overhaul of command structures) are loathe to condone any political oppression along sectarian lines. Although the Iraqi army in June 2013 has initially fought abysmally against ISIS, this does not necessarily negate the impressive achievements in the field of military operations which have previously been achieved.

The major concern in Iraq had previously been the onset of a massive Al-Qaeda led Sunni insurgency against the Baghdad government and stationed allied troops. The situation was further complicated by the off and on again hostility toward allied troops of a Shiite militia, the so-called Mehdi Army, which was (and still is) led by the cleric Maqtada al-Sadr. The back of the debilitating Al-Qaeda backed Sunni insurgency was broken by 2008 due to the impact of a brilliant American led military campaign devised by the American general, David Petraeus, which was called ‘the surge’.

Victory over the Al-Qaeda insurgency was consolidated in 2008 by the formation of so-called ‘Awakening Councils’ which crucially supported the military effort. These councils were Sunni tribal militias which undertook military action against Al-Qaeda affiliated insurgents in return for the Maliki government integrating the Awakening Councils into the Baghdad regime’s security apparatus. It was true that Al-Qaeda could still wage a bloody and disruptive urban terror campaign but its effectiveness waned as was reflected by government forces killing two key al-Qaeda leaders in April 2010, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Hamzaal-Muhajir.

The security situation had improved in Iraq to the extent that by December 2011 the final American troops had withdrawn. Perhaps a residual American force should have remained in case of emergencies, such as the current ISIS crisis. But then again, Barack Obama had previously promised in 2008 as a presidential candidate to withdraw all US combat troops from Iraq that he had to keep faith with the American people by doing so before his first presidential term had expired.

Therefore, the current ISIS crisis which has befallen Iraq is not due to a previous failure of the anti-guerrilla campaign but rather a ramification of the Syrian Civil War. The origins of this civil war can be traced back to the outbreak of peaceful demonstrations in 2011 calling for political reform. Due to the obstinate refusal of the regime of Bashar Assad to compromise and its resort to political repression a civil war consequently developed which created an opening for Al-Qaeda insurgents to enter the fray to become a potent military force. Indeed, the Syrian Civil War has become such a tangled web that there is now ‘a civil war within a civil war’ being fought between anti-Assad moderates and the Jihadists.

ISIS was apparently formed in 2012 in Syria and in May 2013 launched its blitzkrieg invasion of Iraq in which it has successfully over run most of the Sunni parts of that nation (including the second biggest city of Mosul) that these terrorists are now closing in on Baghdad. The ISIS army is currently pursuing a strategy similar to what the Prophet Muhammad implemented of where a fighting force is deployed to where victory can be achieved so that strength can be gained in order to later engage in a combat in area where previously a military ascendancy could not previously be obtained.

The military position of ISIS in Syria was faltering so that they turned and launched a sudden invasion of Iraq which has been so frighteningly successful. The weapons and equipment that ISIS has captured from the Iraqi army are now apparently being sent back to Syria which might well tip the balance in favour of the Jihadists.

The current crisis in Syria would have been avoided had the Obama administration aerially bombed the positions of the Assad regime or flew sorties to compel President Bashar Assad to an international peace conference to facilitate the establishment of a provisional government. Such a provisional government (which also could have contained members of the previously ruling Baath Party) could have reformed the armed forces and ensured that free elections were held to provide the basis for a genuine Syrian democracy.

Instead, President Obama through his at times laissez faire approach to foreign affairs fallen for the scenario which Al-Qaeda strategically seeks: that of allowing anarchy to prevail so that a Jihadist war can be waged and victory eventually culminating in the establishment of a Caliphate. While a Caliphate state may not eventually be established in Syria due to the support of republican Iran for the Assad regime, it is nevertheless true that the colossal carnage that has occurred in Syria and which may unfold in Iraq is predicated upon American negligence.

Two Iraqs: One Sphere of Influence

The grave situation in Iraq can be retrieved by the United States undertaking expeditious and clinically precise air strikes against ISIS to promptly reverse the situation on the ground. Hesitation in undertaking air strikes could lead to one of two terrifying scenarios: a near complete ISIS victory in Iraq or republican Iran gaining effective control of that nation. The second scenario is a distinct possibility because a de facto Rafsanjani-led republican Iran has the necessary political and strategic skill to convert recent ISIS gains and relative military inaction by the United States to its advantage.

An important reason why ISIS has made such rapid military gains in Iraq is due to the support of Sunni tribal militias who previously constituted the Awakening Councils. Astute military analysts have made the point that while ISIS has made rapid military advancement there is the issue of whether this force can hold the territory which they currently occupy. This is currently not a problem for ISIS because Sunni tribesmen are providing vital assistance so that they (i.e. ISIS) can hold territory behind the combat line.

However, if these Sunni tribal/clan militias eventually turn on ISIS the question emerges as to whom will they align themselves with? Another related question is who are these Sunni tribes actually aligned to? The answer to these interrelated questions is the Douri wing of the Iraqi Baath Party. Following Saddam’s capture in December 2006 the Baathist Party split into wings, one led Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri and the other by Mohammed Younis al-Ahmed. The latter is openly aligned with the Syrian Baath Party but Al-Douri has also be known to been previously provided with refuge in Damascus.

Apparently, the Douri’s wing of the Iraqi Baathist Party supported the recent ISIS takeover of Mosul where Douri is reportedly now residing. Given the fluid nature of politics in the Arab world it is not beyond the realms of possibility that the Douri Baathists are now aligned with the Damascus wing of the party which is in turn is beholden to Tehran. Consequently, there is a distinct possibility that the Sunni tribes who are aligned with the Douri Baathists but are presently opportunistically assisting ISIS, may later turn on these Jihadists to allow the now Iranian aligned Baathists to take power in the predominately Sunni South of Iraq.

The above scenario is plausible given the intricate plotting which Rafsanjani is known to be capable of. Therefore, the reputed suggestion of US Vice-President Joe Biden that Iraq be allowed to divide into three sections along sectarian lines (i.e. Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish) is inherently dangerous. If the United States prevaricates about undertaking aerial strikes against ISIS in southern Iraq then Prime Minister Maliki with technical and military assistance from republican Iran (including advice from republican Iran’s brilliant general, Qasem Soleimani) may carve out a Shiite enclave in Iraq which will exist as a Tehran dependency.

There will probably be a later military struggle for control of Sunni Iraq between ISIS and a now ultimately and ironically Tehran aligned Douri led Baath Party. This wing of the Iraqi Baath Party would probably prevail against ISIS due to logistical support from republican Iran. The Sunni section of Iraq could then eventually join a Baathist ruled Syria to form a Greater Syria under the tutelage of republican Iran. Under such an outcome no accommodation with the Kurds would be entertained by republican Iran, which has its own substantial Kurdish minority.

Consequently, it is plausible that Tehran could engineer the destruction of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq with the collusion of an overly dependent Maliki, the Douri Baathists and with Turkey’s tepidly pro-republican Iran government, who along with its powerful secular military, are vehemently opposed to the Kurds having autonomy anywhere in the region.

Will The Middle East Be Dominated By Republican Iran?

The stakes in the Middle East are currently that high because republican Iran stands to gain control of Iraq (even if divided into Sunni and Shiite sections), consolidate its hold over Syria and then by extension dominate Lebanon through its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah. A mythology concerning the current crisis in this region is that republican Iran as a Shiite power is engaged in a life and death struggle against Sunni Islam. This is not the case because Rafsanjani is prepared to later align with the Douri Baathists to gain predominance in Iraq to help eliminate ISIS and/or any other Al-Qaeda affiliates.

It is therefore possible that a republican Iran which controls Iraq, Syria and Lebanon will eventually align with a predominately Sunni Islamist government in Turkey, such as Recep Erdogan’s, to expand its influence into the former Soviet Central Asian republics. Republican Iran may fulfil a vital role in defeating Al-Qaeda, but the west will have to pay the ultimate price of that nation becoming a dominant anti-American regional power with nuclear weapons and control over Iraq’s oil. From this position of dominance republican Iran will threaten the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

This prospect of republican Iran dominating the Gulf and Crescent regions of the Middle East has been a long-standing one which goes back to the Iran-Iraq War (1980 to 1988). Indeed, during the first two years of this war (1980 to 1982) while republican Iran was on the defensive this nation seemed to be in a position akin to eighteenth century revolutionary France in that a warring nation was also beset by internal domestic turbulence. It therefore could have been asked during this time of the early 1980s if Iran would give rise to its own version of Napoleon I?

The above question can be answered by a qualified ‘yes’. The emergent Napoleon I is General Qasem Soleimani. In contrast to eighteenth century France the Iranian armed forces have not seized power (as the French military did in 1799) because the power of the Iranian army has been superseded by the Revolutionary Guards who have been integrated into this nation’s socio-economic system that they have a vested interested in preserving the regime.

General Soleimani has therefore not seized power for himself or is now leading Iranian troops abroad in battle. Instead this general has exerted his power domestically to preserve the regime (such as his insistence that pro-democracy demonstrations be repressed in 1999) while expanding his nation’s power abroad via proxies. This general was the main adviser (if not commander of) to the Shiite militia Hezbollah in Lebanon. Hezbollah to date has been effectively utilized by republican Iran to entrench its power in Lebanon.

Indeed, Hezbollah troops have been effectively deployed to Syria to help defend the Assad regime. Hezbollah troops in Syria and the regular forces of the Assad regime have at one stage or another been under the command of General Soleimani. This has been an undoubted contributing factor to why the Baathist side in that Syrian Civil War are gaining the ascendancy despite their numerical disadvantage.

With regard to the unfolding Iraq Civil War, General Soleimani has reputedly taken up a senior advising rule to the Iraqi armed forces. Therefore, Prime Minister Maliki can afford to ignore American advice, even if prime ministerial pleas for American aerial bombing go unheeded. This is because what General Soleimani needs is time. It is probably for this reason that Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei has publicly opposed American aerial strikes against ISIS positions because he and Rafsanjani know that with a protracted war in Iraq, Tehran will be able to achieve its strategic objectives.

Therefore with time on his hands, General Soleimani can re-organise both the Iraqi armed forces and the Mehdi army to fight a predominately defensive war with sustained offensive action by the Iraqi government only being undertaken to the extent of weakening ISIS so that the Douri Baathists can later take on and defeat these Jihadists. The scenario that Rafsanjani is trying to configure, with the assistance of the strategic and tactical military brilliance of General Soleimani, is the eventual division of Iraq into Shiite and Sunni components, with the latter possibly joining up with Syria to constitute a pro-republican Iranian, Baathist state ruled from Damascus. It will be challenging for republican Iran to achieve this outcome because Al-Qaeda and its off-shoots such ASIS are as tenacious as they are vicious.

However, strategists as brilliant as Rafsanjani and Soleimani probably appreciate the value of the maxim that ‘good luck is where preparation meets opportunity’. Therefore the regime of republican Iran is now converting the advantage of the west being lulled into believing that President Rouhani will discontinue Tehran’s nuclear weapons program to having Washington actually assist in it in gaining control of Iraq and its massive oil resources.

The major hope to turn the situation in Iraq and the Middle East is for the better is for the United States to politically and militarily support President Talabani . This former avowed leftist is someone who paradoxically realizes that the best hope for his people (the Kurds) to advance, if not survive, is for there to be a united, federal and democratic Iraq which is aligned to the United States. The Obama administration should therefore heed the advice of this astute statesman with regard to undertaking military action in Iraq via aerial bombing of ISIS positions.

The predominately Shiite Iraqi armed forces, unless otherwise reorganised by General Soleimani, are still overridingly loyal to their nation’s titular head of state, President Talabani because of his support for the United States. Expeditious and *clinically precise American air strikes against ISIS positions in Iraq will rapidly turn the military position around to bolster the political standing of President Talabani. Consequently, President Talabani will be in a stronger position vis a vis his political relations with Prime Minister Maliki that the interests of the nation’s substantial Sunni Muslim minority can be accommodated.

From a short term political perspective American aerial bombing of ISIS positions will prevent the Jihadists from establishing a de facto Caliphate in Iraq, which would also provides ISIS with a basis to launch attacks against Jordan. From a longer time perspective, American aerial bombing would prevent republican from Iran gaining dominance throughout the region by Rafsanjani respectively using Maliki and Douri to divide Iraq into two pro-Tehran spheres of control.

The preservation of a federal and democratic Iraq as a result of precise American aerial bombing would have other positive dividends for world peace. A strengthened United State’s position in Iraq would encourage Rafsanjani to go from using President Rouhani as a decoy so that the West will refrain from taking action to prevent Iran covertly acquiring nuclear weapons to Tehran being compelled to seriously negotiate so that such WMD will not be constructed. Furthermore, changed dynamics as a result of a democratic and federal Iraq been consolidated could lead to Rafsanjani using his influence so that a provisional government in Syria is formed.

If a provisional government is formed in Syria between the Baath Party and moderates the civil war would still continue due to fierce opposition from Al-Qaeda. However, a western and republican Iranian backed provisional government in Damascus over time could prevail against the Jihadists so that democratic elections would later be held.

To Intervene or Not to Intervene? : The Worst of Times and The Best of Times

The contemporary situation is on a praecipe in that the United States by aerially bombing ISIS positions in Iraq could gain strategic leverage to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East by affecting the balance of power in that region. Alternately, American in-action could lead to the outcome of a Jihadist Caliphate being established in Iraq which will create a vortex that sucks the region into military chaos. The alternate negative scenario if the United States chooses to refrain from aerial bombing is that *republican Iran will guided by the diabolical mind of Hashemi Rafsanjani gains a predominance in the Middle East which threatens the economic well-being of the still oil dependent West.

(*Commensurate with republican Iran gaining ascendency in the Middle East will inevitably be that nation acquiring nuclear weapons).

President Obama is reputed to be a brilliant person. Brilliant people are supposed to use their talent to either solve problems and/or proactively prevent them from occurring. The deep ceded problems of the Middle East are akin to the disease of tuberculosis before the advent of vaccinations virtually eliminated that decease. Tuberculosis as the medieval Florentine philosopher Niccola Machiavelli pointed out was relatively easy to cure in its early stage, but if the disease was left unattended, then the malady became fatal.

The contemporary problems which confront the United States with regard to Iraq are formidable, but not impossible to resolve. In terrible and complex situations such as these the United States needs genuine friends who have a capacity to overcome the formidable challenges which are posed so that negatives can actually be converted into positives. The United States (or more to the point, President Obama) has a potential friend in the person of President Jalal Talabani.

While friendship should be valued from a principled perspective, friendship can also have utilitarian dividends because positive forces can be brought into being. Because President Talabani has a vested interest in seeing that Iraq is a federal, democratic and pro-western nation, his objectives align with those of the United States whose economic interests will massively suffer should either ISIS or Republican Iran prevail. Therefore, should President Talabani request aerial bombing of ISIS targets, President Obama will hopefully adhere to such advice for the well-being of not only Iraq but the world.

Dr. David Paul Bennett is the Director of Social Action Australia Pty Ltd.