Will Shiites And Sunnis Join Forces And Fight ISIS In Iraq?

By Sal Bommarito

Sectarian issues are beginning to hamper efforts of the Iraqi government as it confronts ISIS, reports the New York Times.

Government forces have apparently taken Tikrit and Prime Minister Abadi is preparing to engage ISIS insurgents in Anbar Province, which is on the route to Mosul, the ISIS capital.

The next stage of the offensive now moves to Anbar, which is dominated by Sunnis. The Times article indicates that a government force consisting of mostly Shiites would not be a welcome sight to the local leaders and inhabitants.

The original plan was for Iraq, with U.S. support, to arm Sunni tribes so they could fight ISIS in their neighborhoods. Shiite leaders in the Iraq government are not convinced that Sunni tribesmen will ultimately be loyal to Iraq and won’t use weapons against the government when ISIS is defeated. The distribution of arms has been delayed.

Sectarian issues are beginning to crop up more often as government forces surge deeper into ISIS territory, much of which is Sunni. This could be a precursor to civil war post-ISIS.

The U.S. has been pleading with Iraq to be more inclusive with Sunnis and to avoid confrontations. Nevertheless, the oppression of Shiites by Saddam Hussein’s Sunni-dominated regime weighs heavily on Shiites. Many in government and average Shiite citizens want to return the favor and marginalize Sunnis politically and economically.

The Tikrit/Anbar controversy is a microcosm of the larger mosaic of Iraqi politics. Even in war, with ISIS continuing to ravage the country, partisanship and religious bigotry continue to slow progress against a common enemy.

The U.S. indicated from the outset of the ISIS war that Iraqis must fight their own battles, at least on the ground. Shiites are still not accepting of Sunnis and visa versa. Also, Iran’s involvement as advisor and with troops is creating more concern among Iraqi Sunnis.

Obama’s Nuclear Deal With Iran Will Destabilize The Middle East

By Sal Bommarito

The furor about an impending Iran nuclear deal continues to grow. President Obama is lobbying Americans to gain their support for his “outline.” He even summoned one of his primary apologists, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, to the White House for a chat about the deal. He wrote a follow-up article after his meeting with the president. Click here to get Friedman’s take on the controversy.

There are many things about the negotiations with Iran that are suspicious and should cause any experienced negotiator to be skeptical. One is related to the negotiating strategy of the U.S. From my vantage point, the U.S. has most of the bargaining chips, yet it appears that American negotiators have been too quick to capitulate to Iranian demands. One could reasonably ask whether this is about American security or Obama’s legacy.

A most important factor should be the state of Iran’s economy. It is in free fall because of United Nations and U.S. sanctions coupled with a significant decline in oil prices. Waiting or stalling would increase the pressure on Iran as its citizens experience the sting of economic turmoil.

When one party in a negotiation has such a powerful advantage, he must capitalize on it. Instead, the U.S. indicated it would end sanctions relating to the nuclear issue, which would increase Iran’s revenues. With more cash flow, it will surely accelerate its nuclear program and supplement its reign of terror in the Middle East. Perhaps, the president should look back at Ronald Reagan’s dealings with the Soviet Union. He successfully implemented a strategy that virtually bankrupted Russian thereby ending the Cold War.

The negotiations have been one-sided. Iran gets to keep its nuclear infrastructure and too much enriched uranium, which will enable it to produce a weapon in ten years, or earlier if Iran violates the terms of a treaty. The U.S. receives a “theoretical” delay of one year in the ability of Iran to build a nuclear weapon. [I wonder how the hell that calculation was made.] Additionally, Iran is supposedly giving inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear operations to ensure compliance to a treaty. We all know hour cooperative Iran has been over the years in this regard.

The U.S. has important allies in the Middle East that have been disappointed too often. The Iran deal has made the group even more reticent about the Obama administration. A nuclear deal with our most despised enemy in the region is being negotiated as our friends, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and the Gulf States object.

It is doubtful that a treaty will stop Iran from moving forward with a plan to build a nuclear weapon. So, other Middle East countries will surely insist on a similar right to initiate a nuclear program. The Iran deal will be the impetus for a regional arms race, a phenomenon that will make the area that much more unstable.

Some facts about Iran are indisputable. It hates America. In fact, its ayatollahs are regularly leading chants of “Death to America.” Iran similarly despises Sunnis and non-Muslims, as compared to ISIS, which abhors Shiites, non-Muslims and non-Arabs. Iran continually supports terrorist groups that have destabilized Sunni regimes. Yemen is the latest insurgency sponsored by Iran. Israel insists that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to its survival. There should be no doubt about this given that Iranian leaders have said they want to obliterate the State of Israel. And so the big questions are why would the U.S. engage our mortal enemy, and for a nuclear weapon, no less? And, what does Obama expect to gain from this adventure?

And then, there is the critical issue of Iran’s compliance with the terms of the treaty. Most people are not comforted by Obama’s assurances that the U.S. can or will stop Iran anytime in the future from building a nuclear weapon. He said the U.S. spends $600 billion on defense each year while Iran spends only $30 billion. So, why should Americans or Sunni Arabs worry?

This bluster is meaningless unless Iran is convinced that the U.S. will actually enforce the treaty. Previous “lines in the sand” drawn by Obama have been empty threats (consider Syria). It is highly unlikely that Obama will dispatch bombers to Iran if it violates the treaty. Once Iran has a nuke, it will be too late and the region will be permanently destabilized.

Unlike many other situations, the U.S. has options. A better tactic would be to stall and allow financial events to destroy the Iranian economy. Another is for Obama to caucus with Congress to test his decisions before signing a treaty. I, for one, would feel much safer if Congress endorses his plan given its current level of skepticism. I do not believe the president should take such an important step without more eyes on the deal. After all, it’s a nuclear weapon we are talking about.

Put Yourself In Bibi’s Shoes

By Sal Bommarito

It’s not easy being Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu these days. As leader of Israel, Bibi must deal with never-ending external and internal threats. His country has been criticized by virtually every nation as it strives to survive in one of the most dangerous regions in the world.

Specifically, the following external issues dog Netanyahu every day: Palestine, Iran nuclear negotiations, Israel’s relationship with America and terrorism.

Palestine: Is Palestine politically and economically ready to be an independent state? Interested parties have been debating this question since 1988. As of 2014, 135 of 193 United Nations members recognized the State of Palestine. During his recent election, Netanyahu indicated that he was against a “two-state” solution, an obvious campaign ploy (it worked, he won). Subsequently, the prime minister clarified his comment by saying that there could be no two-state arrangement “at this time.”

Over the years, Israel has negotiated with some very difficult Palestinian opponents. On several occasions, peace and agreement were at hand, only to be dashed by one side or the other. The division of land, the connection of the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, economic considerations, terrorism and the right of Israel to exist are among the primary areas of dispute. American presidents have unsuccessfully tried to mediate a deal during the past four decades.

Israel has done its share to add to the chaos and inability to make peace. Most recently, it, for security reasons, built new settlements on land that the Palestinians believe belongs to them. President Obama has asked, and then demanded, that Netanyahu put a stop to this activity, to no avail.

Arabs frequently accuse Israel of crimes against humanity, especially when it retaliates against terrorist attacks by Hamas and other groups. The Palestinian’s plight is one of the most contentious issues in the Middle East for all Arab nations.

Iran’s nuclear negotiations: Bibi has claimed that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to Israel. He has been relentless in expressing all the reasons why the U.S. should not cave into Iranian demands. His rationale includes a belief that Iran will not be a responsible possessor of a nuke, and it will violate the provisions of any treaty that limits its ability to build a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu spoke before the U.S. Congress lobbying for discretion and oversight of any deal that President Obama signs. There were many sympathetic ears in the crowd. Last week, Iran and the U.S. agreed to an “outline” of a treaty. It is not clear what bipartisan actions Congress may take prospectively, or whether it will wait until a draft agreement is signed.

Israel’s relationship with the U.S.: The Netanyahu speech created a serious rift with the Obama administration; Obama did not endorse Bibi’s appearance. Obama Is disgusted with the prime minister’s endless carping, but Netanyahu is fighting for his country’s survival.

The implications of enthusiastic U.S. support are epic. Frankly, without military support, Israel could not survive. In fact, the demographics (in particular, birth rates of Israelis versus Palestinians) put Israel at a serious disadvantage over time. And, decreased financial support from American Jews could be a deathblow to Israel; young Jews are not as generous politically or economically than the previous generations.

Terrorism: Israel is continually under the gun, so to speak. Its citizens are always in peril from threats that have become more emboldened over time. The Jewish state is the only issue that unites Shiite and Sunni Arabs. Over the years, every Middle Eastern leader has attributed domestic and external problems to Israel, even if it had no role.

Yes, Bibi has a difficult job. I often wonder why so many nations around the world are supportive of Palestine over Israel when it is clear that the latter is more of a counter-puncher than an aggressor. Retaliation against terrorist attacks is too often labeled a crime.

Perhaps, Israel’s reputation is tarnished by its affiliation with the U.S. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine who Arabs despise more, America or Israel.

The U.S. Gets No Thanks Or Respect From Iraq

By Sal Bommarito

No good deed goes unpunished. Oscar Wilde. The U.S. agreed to assist the Iraqi government with airstrikes in the last stages of the battle for Tikrit. Yet, a New York Times article titled “Retaking Tikrit, Iraqis Give Little Credit to U.S.” was published today.

The following are some of the disconcerting quotes from the piece.

  • “ . . . Americans deserve little or no credit.”
  • “ . . . Shiite militiamen involved in the fight say the international coalition’s air campaign actually impeded their victory . . .”
  • “ Some [Iraqis] even accuse[d] the United States of fighting on the side of the Islamic State . . .”
  • One Iraqi fighter said “ . . .[I] saw nothing to thank the Americans for . . .”
  • “This is a victory of Hadi al-Ameri and God, . . .” Mr. Ameri is a pro-Iranian leader of a large militia group.
  • “All they did was bomb the wrong side and kill federal policemen the other day.”
  • “The Americans supported Daesh, not us . . .” Daesh is a nickname for ISIS.
  • “Yes, the international coalition helped but not really in a good way . . .”

On another note, the article indicates that humanitarian rights groups believe that ISIS massacred 1,700 unarmed cadets last June. Similarly, the Iraqis are taking no prisoners. “To be honest, everywhere we captured [ISIS fighters] we killed them because they were the enemy.” Later the person who gave this account changed his story and added “. . . ISIS fighters who were about to be captured were assumed to be suicide bombers so they were killed as a precaution.”

A battalion commander of a militia unit said “. . . this week [my men] captured three Afghan men, an Afghan woman and an Algerian man, all Islamic State fighters . . . After we were done with them, we killed them.” The commander spoke anonymously to avoid being charged with war crimes.

The final slap in the face came from the Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi, the man who asked the U.S. to send more bombers to Tikrit, who credited “the joint efforts of the army and police forces alongside the popular mobilization fighters and the tribal fighters and the people of Tikrit with air coverage of the Iraqi air force and the international coalition.” The prime minister finally got around to the U.S. attacks. By the way, the Iraqis have about “a dozen attack jets, but less than half are known to be in service, and none are equipped for precision bombing.”

What the hell is the U.S. doing in Iraq? Iraq shows no appreciation. The U.S. is playing a secondary role. And, the Iraqis are going to slaughter ISIS fighters just like ISIS has slaughtered non-believers.

The ISIS conflict is not a war. It is a street fight, in which neither side engages the enemy with any honor. And there are no rules. It is going to drag on indefinitely, ISIS into civil war. The U.S. should disengage or go all-in and kill the insurgents. Leading from the rear is a horrible and unproductive strategy.

Obama Is Falling Into Iran’s Nuclear Trap

By Sal Bommarito

Liberals are scrambling to justify U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran. Thankfully, these entreaties are falling on many deaf ears. Nicholas Kristof, in his New York Times op-ed, is the latest to make a case for a deal with Iran.

The most important assumptions being made by Obama apologists are the following:

  • Iran will develop a nuclear bomb whether the U.S. supports a treaty or not.
  • Iran would be a responsible possessor of a nuclear weapon.
  • Iran will never employ a nuclear weapon because the U.S. and/or Israel will retaliate.
  • Iran will not cheat or violate provisions of a new treaty.
  • Iran will allow unfettered inspections of its nuclear operations.
  • Iran will become a more productive participant in the international community of nations if it owns a nuke.
  • Iran’s leaders are not radical Islamists determined to kill non-believers.
  • Sanctions and low oil prices will not have a long-term impact on Iran.

Iran has been working on a nuclear bomb for many years. Israel would probably be the first to know if Iran had achieved its objective, so it is likely that Iran is some distance from producing a DELIVERABLE weapon. Sanctions and dramatically lower oil revenues could hamper production of a bomb for a long time especially if the country is destabilized by economic turmoil.

How could any sensible person conclude that Iran will be responsible if it possessed a nuclear weapon? Iran is the greatest purveyor of terrorism in the Middle East and has worked diligently to topple Sunni states. It would use a nuke to bully other Arab countries. Moreover, Iran’s ownership of a bomb would cause an arms race in the region that includes Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The Middle East will become even more perilous if this occurs.

Iran has violated United Nations mandates for years. It will surely continue to cheat after signing a new treaty.

Numerous people have indicated that a nuclear weapon would make Iran a more constructive “global citizen” (Kristof reiterated this point). I don’t understand how ownership of a nuclear device that could possibly set off a world war and kill hundreds of thousands of people will improve the behavior of a rogue nation.

Iran has stated on numerous occasions that it detests all people except Shiite Arabs. That means it plans to kill non-believers whenever possible.

It’s been written and said many times that President Obama thirsts for an epic diplomatic achievement, a legacy issue. For this reason, he is prepared to make too many concessions. When all the details of the Iran treaty are revealed, I expect Congress, Democrats and Republicans, along with average Americans to be horrified with the proposed deal.