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

    Mother of IS Supporter: Son Was Peaceful, 'Role Model'

    Somali-American Abdirizak Mohamed Warsame pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of conspiring to provide material support to Islamic State militants

    Factions Shift as Civilians Die in Syrian War

    Scenario likely only to further confuse military situation on ground and potentially worsen humanitarian crisis that already has grown to epic proportions

    Presidential Hopefuls Woo Minorities, Evangelicals

    Four GOP candidates to speak at forum at Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina

    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.
    Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortagei
    X
    February 12, 2016 7:31 PM
    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Two-thirds of World Faces Water Shortage

    Four billion people — or two out of every three on the planet — do not have enough water to meet their basic needs. That is far greater than previously thought, according to a new study that presents a more accurate picture of the problem. As VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports, the findings will help policymakers and the public craft solutions to address the threat.
    Video

    Video Gateway to Mecca: Historical Old Jeddah

    Local leader Sami Nawar's family has been in the Old City of Jeddah for hundreds of years and takes us on a tour of this ancient route to Mecca, also believed to be the final resting place of Adam's wife, Eve.
    Video

    Video New Technology Aims to Bring Election Transparency to Uganda

    A team of recent graduates from Uganda’s Makerere University has created a mobile application designed to help monitor elections and expose possible rigging. The developers say the app, called E-Poll, will make Uganda's democratic process fairer. From Kampala, VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video Russia Bristles at NATO Expansion in E. Europe

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is meeting Friday with the head of NATO after the Western military alliance and the United States announced plans for the biggest military build-up in Europe since the Cold War. Russia has called NATO's moves a threat to stability in Europe. But NATO says the troop rotations and equipment are aimed at reassuring allies concerned about Russia as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.