News / Middle East

Observers: Iran Changing Dynamics of Iraqi Conflict

FILE - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, shown here, has met with Iranian Gen. Ghasem Soleimani.
FILE - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, shown here, has met with Iranian Gen. Ghasem Soleimani.
Last week, Sunni militants led by fighters for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant steamrolled through parts of northern Iraq, seizing Mosul, Tikrit and other cities. This week, they’ve met stiffer resistance, which some experts call an indication that Iraq’s demoralized army is getting new help from its neighbor, Iran.
 
And, these observers say, the insurgency threatening to unravel Iraq is prompting a startling realignment of interests between the U.S. and Iran, at least in the short term.
 
Iran’s growing role in the Iraqi crisis has drawn mixed reactions.
 
Fighters from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) likely already are in action, according to Phillip Smyth, a University of Maryland researcher who monitors jihadist and Shiite social media sites.
 
Facebook pages with links to Iran’s revolutionary guards claim that Shiite fighters from Iran have been deployed in “defense of Samarra,” an Iraqi city that is home to a major Shia shrine threatened by the jihadists, Smyth said. Iranian websites also indicate the guards may have produced their first “martyr,” Ali Reza Moshajari, who reportedly was killed Saturday.
 
Commanders here in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq say that they suspect several hundred Iranian guardsmen already are in Iraq and that Iranian intelligence is likely assisting Syrian warplanes in airstrikes. Last weekend, two were aimed at ISIL convoys.
 
The Kurdish commanders also claim the militants’ occupation of Mosul and Tikrit is paper-thin. They say many of those who led the assault on Mosul for ISIL – also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS – have been shifted to stage hit-and-run attacks on towns in the Tigris valley north of Baghdad.
 
Mosul is Iraq’s second-largest city. Tikrit is the hometown of the late, deposed leader, Saddam Hussein.
 
U.S. and Iran share interest
 
U.S. officials acknowledge that Tehran and Washington have a common interest in shoring up the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
 
Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview Monday with Yahoo! News, said the Obama administration would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.”
 
In Vienna, where representatives of the United States and several other countries have been meeting with their Iranian counterparts to talk about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, U.S. officials said participants had discussed the Iraq crisis but had ruled out military cooperation.

Iranian commander consulted

Maliki, frustrated with leaders of the demoralized Iraqi military, reportedly has turned to a top Iranian commander for some advice.
 
Maliki met Monday in Baghdad with the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Gen. Ghasem Soleimani. Kurdish sources say the general is drafting a coordination strategy for the Iraqi military.
 
On Tuesday, the prime minister dismissed four of Iraq’s military leaders for failing to perform their “national duty,” according to a statement read on state TV.
 
Iranian commanders have proved crucial to the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They got involved in the past year, backing up fighters from Tehran’s ally, Hezbollah, Lebanon’s militant Shia movement. Since then, the Syrian government has scored some notable battlefield gains.
 
‘Recipe for disaster’
 
Some American analysts argue that U.S. collaboration with Iran could have serious consequences.
 
“Inviting Iran to help stabilize Iraq is a recipe for disaster,” said Jonathan Schanzer, a Mideast expert with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank in Washington, D.C.
 
He said Iran shouldn’t be a desirable partner for the U.S.
 
“It's also important to remember that ISIS's rise is directly tied to Iran's direct support to the Assad regime,” Schanzer said. “Iran dispatched the IRGC and Hezbollah to fight ISIS and others in Syria, which has only increased the fervor of the Sunni jihadi factions. Do we expect this not to happen in Iraq?”
 
Accusations abound
 
Some Sunni Muslims who fled Mosul for a sunbaked refugee camp on the outskirts of Erbil expressed concern about their own government’s actions.
 
“I left Mosul not because of the jihadists,” said Raghdad, who gave a single name. “They were OK with us. My worry was Maliki will soon start bombing Mosul. I am scared of warplanes.”
 
In the dusty camp of blue tents, other Sunni Muslims had harsh words for the Iraqi leader, arguing he had prompted the militants’ rise by pursuing a Shia-dominated agenda.
 
Maliki defended his position Tuesday, rejecting calls inside Iraq and from the West to reach out to Sunnis.
 
Instead, he blamed Saudi Arabia for much of the uprising, saying the Persian Gulf’s main Sunni power bears responsibility because it has been funding Sunni militant rebels in neighboring Syria.
 
"We hold them responsible for supporting these groups financially and morally, and for the outcome of that — which includes crimes that may qualify as genocide: the spilling of Iraqi blood, the destruction of Iraqi state institutions and historic and religious sites," the Iraqi government said in a statement.
 
Saudi officials deny the kingdom has channeled funds to ISIL.
 
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Robert Ezergailis from: Canada
June 18, 2014 8:22 PM
Very strange that the Maliki Shiite government would ask Washington for air strikes to try to force the United States to appear partial to the Shiites and against the Sunni. Maliki ought to ask his friends in Tehran for whatever assistance he believes his Shiite government must have. Iran does have an air force and boasts that it is a very capable air force. Why bring the United States into the middle of a Shiite versus Sunni battle ?
In Response

by: Duke of Plaza-Toro
June 19, 2014 4:29 AM
No doubt Maliki would laugh himself sick, as would the Iranians, if the US wasted lives and money to carry out Iran's policy and do his fighting for him. (So, I'm sure, would the Iraqi soldiers, who appear to have run almost as fast as I would have from the fray.) If the US supports the Shia, it backs the Ayatollah Khomeni's policy of taking over Iraq and allowing a Shia drive for Kuwait and the Shia majority areas which contain most of Saudi Arabia's oil. If it supports the Sunnis, it backs Islamic terrorists who'd love to blow up a few more World Trade Centres. The obvious solution is put all the money it can print (I understand the Federal Reserve prints $85 billion a month) into building synthetic oil plants. It can buy the technology from South Africa, which has been doing this for 40 years. Once it no longer needs Middle Eastern oil, it can abandon the place and leave the locals alone to kill each other in peace.

by: M Abdul Naser Nasu from: Bangladesh
June 18, 2014 5:05 AM
World powers & power brokers has already ignited the fuel tanks of middle east by overthrowing Saddam Regime without setting an unified admilnstration for Iraq.Noorie All Maluku does not have any support from popular power bases of Iraq and as well as Historically US has failed to establish a balanced administration after their Invasion. Geo-politically Iraq should be governed by Shiate-Sunni top Clergy men as well as top politicians.Iraq should be governed by all the political groups not by Iranian puppets.Definitely ISIL is a group organized by Sunni depressed peoples not linked to All Qaida but they are falsely relating to Al Qaida by western media which directly benefiting Iran in the interior struggle of Iraq.Iran has the muscle to establish their offshoots by using terrorists plea over US and they are cleverly engaged the US to invade Iraq to destroy the Sunni uprising whichwill be more fatal & dangerous to US policy over the region as well as should crush the balance of power in the volatile M.East.More over the original plan lies wirh the Almighty what is to be coming soon,be aware of the Revelation in the Holy Books.

by: meanbill from: USA
June 18, 2014 1:41 AM
MY OPINION? -- (Don't trust the US President who bowed to the "Sunni" Saudi King) --- and don't trust those who armed and trained the "Sunni" extremists/terrorists including the (ISIL) in Syria, -- (and for sure) -- don't trust those who armed and trained the "Sunni" Iraq Security Forces that threw down their clothes in the street, and walked away, and joined with the "Sunni" (ISIL), to attack the Shia led Iraq government. -- (AND MOST OF ALL?) -- don't trust those who'd want Iraq to sign an "Unequal Treaty" with them?

THE WISE MAN said it; -- "Know your enemies, and know yourself, and you can win a hundred battles without losing a single man" -- (BUT?) -- "Trust someone you shouldn't, and you will suffer a devastating defeat, and lose the war" .. from the book "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu?

by: mytake from: World
June 17, 2014 9:59 PM
Can we finally see some inclusiveness of Shias in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain (where Sunni minority government brutally represses the Shia majority)?

Highly unlikely, as no US Congressperson has the courage to tell - let alone "lecture" - the autocrats and sunni wahabi extremist running Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to also show some inclusiveness.

With a few OPEC dollars thrown their way, these so called leaders in Washington DC quickly forget that most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudi Wahabi Jihadists!

The very same radical Islam that the Saudis promote worldwide to the tune of $10-15 billion.

No wonder our foreign policy and economy is in such a mess when we seem to have leaders who bumble through from both sides of their mouths.
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
June 18, 2014 11:09 AM
IF ONLY? -- If only he US didn't arm and train the extremists/terrorists in Syria, and the "Sunni" Security Forces in Iraq, none of this would be happening now, would it?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs