Iraq: a joint U.S.-Iran ‘intervention’ is not the solution

The U.S. experience in Iraq showed that the one who could fight Sunni extremism are the Sunnis themselves

Dr. Naser al-Tamimi
Dr. Naser al-Tamimi - Naser al-Tamimi
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Events in Iraq have accelerated in a dramatic way, even stunned many of the regional and international security services who have been following the situation very closely. The rise of the Sunni extremists was not a surprise, yet the speed of the collapse of the Iraqi army, who were equipped and trained by the United States of America. Of course there are many factors that led to these developments, but it seems that the United States continues to correct the mistake with yet another mistake.

We need to remember that the U.S. committed a series of fatal mistakes, beginning with the invasion of Iraq, through to the so-called “Arab Spring,” down to its current policy towards Syria, not to mention Egypt, Palestine and Libya. Perhaps the biggest new mistake that could be added to Obama’s administration is to adopt the policy that has been promoted by some advocating that America should join with Iran to fight against Sunni extremism in Iraq, Syria and even Afghanistan.

The U.S. experience in Iraq showed that the one who could fight Sunni extremism are the Sunnis themselves. As long as the Sunnis look at Maliki or any government as the main reason of their suffering, it is difficult to convince the silent majority of them to join the battle against the extremisms.

The U.S. experience in Iraq showed that the ones who could fight Sunni extremism are the Sunnis themselves

Dr. Naser al-Tamimi

For many years everyone has known, including the United States that the policy of the Iraqi government, which is based on the exclusion of the Sunni Arabs and sectarianism, will only lead to disaster. This is a new catastrophe in the making, if the current U.S. administration adopts the policy of coordination with Tehran to support the Maliki government and fight the so-called Sunni extremism led by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).

Let us speak openly and unequivocally: The current development has become a win-win situation for both Sunni and Shiite extremists.

Any direct Iranian intervention will strengthen Shiite groups associated with Tehran, and will also increase the resentment in Sunni Arabs, both Islamists and nationalists inside and outside of Iraq. Iran, for its part, believes that it may succeed in replaying the Syrian scenario, weakening the opposition and transform the case into fighting against terrorism. Nevertheless, the Syrian situation is not over yet and it may be premature to declare Assad’s victory.

The United States is trying to persuade other regional powers, especially Turkey and Saudi Arabia to join the fight against the extremists, but the risk is that the fight against extremist groups, without a genuine political solution in Iraq or Syria could backfire.

Even if Maliki’s government succeed (with the support of the U.S. and Iran) to regain the military initiative, this will not lead to stability, but will deepen the sectarian polarization and increase support for the Sunni Islamists and nationalist groups, and perhaps destabilize other countries in the region. It will raise the morale of the jihadi organizations in Syria, Iraq or other countries and represents a rallying point to attract new fighters and promote their beliefs. Just look at the quantity of weapons and money seized by ISIS’s fighters in Mosul, on their own they are sufficient to fund these militants’ for many months without relying on aid from abroad.

The real solution

The U.S. military’s hasty support to rescue Maliki will without any doubts boost the support for the extremists, especially in Syria. It will reinforce the argument (regardless of its validity or accuracy) which is common among many Sunni circles, that Iran, United States and Israel are in one front to support Maliki and Assad to weaken the jihadist groups, or marginalise the Sunni Arabs in Iraq and Syria.

It has become evident that Maliki is part of the problem, and any U.S.-Iranian coordination to maintain the status quo and make him part of the solution, is a recipe for a new disaster and could increase the extremism agenda in an unprecedented way. The real push in fighting against terrorism or extremism is to develop a political agenda that meets the legitimate demands for all Iraqis, including Sunni Arabs.

Dr Naser al-Tamimi is a UK-based Middle East analyst, and author of the forthcoming book “China-Saudi Arabia Relations, 1990-2012: Marriage of Convenience or Strategic Alliance?” He is an Al Arabiya regular contributor, with a particular interest in energy politics, the political economy of the Gulf, and Middle East-Asia relations. The writer can be reached at: Twitter: @nasertamimi and email: [email protected]

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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