By Sal Bommarito
While the U.S. is negotiating a deal that could pave the way for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, the U.S. is competing with Iran for a leading role in the battle for Tikrit. Simultaneously, Iran is denouncing the U.S. every day as the ayatollahs clamor for “Death to America.” And, in the last few days, the U.S. and Iran have found themselves on opposite sides in the developing civil war in Yemen.
What kind of diplomatic game is President Obama playing? How could he be receptive to a nuclear deal with Iran while trying to displace Iran in its efforts to aid Iraq? Why is the U.S. negotiating at all with a country hell-bent on marginalizing U.S. influence in the region and campaigning to politically dominate the Middle East with insurgency?
A Times Digest article On March 26, titled “U.S. Warplanes Join Effort To Oust ISIS,” indicated that U.S. warplanes had initiated airstrikes against Islamic State positions in Tikrit. The effort to take Tikrit by Iraq and assisted by Iran has stalled as the government force of 30,000 cannot overtake “a small band of militants imbedded in the city.” The story explains, “that American officials sought to seize the initiative from Iran, which had taken a major role in directing the operation.” President Obama made the decision personally.
For several weeks, the U.S. avoided the battle for Tikrit because “[it] did not want to be in a position of aiding an essentially Iranian-led operation.” This was a strange perspective as the objective of destroying ISIS should be the most important concern of the U.S., Iraq, Iran and the entire Middle East.
The U.S. approved a request for help from the Iraqi prime minister on the condition that Iranian-backed Shiite militias “move aside to allow a larger role for Iraqi government [forces] that have worked closely with United States troops.” One would expect the U.S. to cooperate with any Arabs that wanted to repel ISIS and avoid an inane squabble about which country is leading the effort.
And why would the U.S. discourage Shiite militia groups from fighting? They have been the only real effective ground force at the disposal of the Iraqi government to fight ISIS until now. The U.S. effectively has mitigated a ground force initiative with a continuing bombing campaign that, so far, has not been effectual.
The pettiness is also prevalent on the Iran side, as its commander of troops in Tikrit has “left the area.” Apparently, neither the U.S. nor Iran is willing to work together fighting a common enemy.
The U.S. fears that it will be “marginalized by Tehran in a country where they had spilled much blood . . .” An American official was quoted as saying, “taking back Tikrit is important, but it gives us an opportunity to have our half of the operation win this one.”
The objective should be to defeat ISIS, not for the U.S. and Iran to one-up each other. Arabs are dying every day, more Arabs are being driven from their homes and lone wolves are planning terrorist attacks throughout the world. I find this tit for tat nonsense unacceptable. And finally, Arabs were finally dealing with their own problem, something that Obama has demanded from the outset of the ISIS conflict. Yet, he enthusiastically miffed Iran and discouraged its participation. Does this administration know what it is doing?