With a new American administration in place an idea has begun to crystallize in the war against ISIS.
This idea is not limited to deploying helicopters and artillery in Raqqa and Mosul and empowering the presence of special forces but also includes forming a US-Gulf front that contributes to fighting ISIS on condition that the areas liberated from ISIS are not occupied by Iran or militias affiliated with it.
This is the major point concluded by the Moscow document and the US Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ visit to the Gulf and Iraq. So there’s a US-Russian-Turkish-Gulf agreement to end the Iranian expansion in Arab capitals. We must be clear regarding this point if the world wants our cooperation to eliminate ISIS.
In exchange for any Gulf or Arab contribution in the war against ISIS, whether in Iraq or Syria, Iran must be outside these areas. This message must be clear to the Iraqi government. Mattis said that the US will continue to support Iraq even after it liberates it from ISIS.
If we link this stance to Mattis’ stance on Iran, as a state that sponsors terrorism, we will realize we are before a united front that does not only insist on the exit of Iranian forces from Iraq and Syria but that also wants to end Iranian influence in them. This message is conveyed by both, Gulf countries and the US.
Establishing a US-Gulf front is the headline of the next phase. It carries the slogan of the Arabism of the lands liberated from ISIS. It is soon that the world will clearly know who supports terrorism and helps ISIS stay and who really wants to get rid of it or use it an excuse to expand.
If Iraq wants Gulf countries to support its security and stability by cooperating with the US, it must act to address the security chaos caused by Iranian militias on its landSawsan al-Shaer
The exit of foreign forces and militias supported by Iran from Syria and Iraq is a major helpful goal. The post-ISIS phase is being discussed even before eliminating the group. This is what Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir mentioned when he announced his country’s willingness to send troops to Syria to combat ISIS in cooperation with the US.
In an interview with the German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Jubeir said: “Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries announced they’re willing to participate with special troops alongside the US. Some countries from the Islamic Alliance to fight terrorism and extremism are also ready to send troops.” He added: “We will coordinate with the US to know what the plan is and what is necessary to execute it.”
It is worth noting that the US President Donald Trump ordered Mattis to draw up a plan within 30 days to combat ISIS. Jubeir also told the German daily that he expects these plans to be proposed soon, indirectly hinting that liberated zones in Syria may be handed over to the opposition.
“The major idea is to liberate areas from ISIS and to also guarantee that these areas do not fall in the hands of Hezbollah, Iran or the (Syrian) regime,” Jubeir added.
On January 4, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the Syrian regime must go back to the table of negotiations to hold direct negotiations with the opposition in order to achieve peaceful political transition in Syria. “We must send a strong message in which we demand that all foreign militias exit Syrian territories immediately,” he said.
Turkish FM emphasized the importance of the withdrawal of all militias from Syria in the end of 2016 after what was known as the Russian-Iranian-Turkish document was announced. This document led to calling for the Astana conference in Kazakhstan.
Therefore, Russia does not at all oppose Iran’s exit from Syria and Iraq as on the contrary this serves its interest if we take into consideration that Iran’s presence will keep the Syrian front ablaze even if the resistance is forced to give up its weapons.
The post-ISIS phase
Meanwhile in Iraq, talking about the post-ISIS phase has in fact begun. They also began to particularly address the Iranian situation, like the case is in Syria. This is why former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rushed to visit Iran in the beginning of January as he felt the circumstances are accumulating against Iran.
He rushed to meet with Ali Akbar Velayati, Khamenei’s international affairs advisor, to be reassured over his future. On January 4, Al-Arabiya.net reported that according to the Mehr news agency, Maliki said he went to Iran to meet with Khamenei to discuss what he called “possible threats post-ISIS.”
Al-Arabiya’s report added: “This is a new political term in international and regional politics especially that the war against ISIS has not ended yet in Iraq and Syria. The point of Maliki’s statements that he went to Iran to discuss possible threats post-ISIS with Iranian officials are unclear as the extremist organization is not present among the Iranians and ISIS does not have any announced military activity in Iran.”
This article is also available in Arabic.
Sawsan Al Shaer is a Bahraini writer and journalist. She tweets under the handle @sawsanalshaer