One of the reasons why president Obama can’t let Benjamin Netanyahu stand in the way of Iran’s nuclear ambitions is because he needs Tehran’s troops to fight ISIS. Today the long awaited offensive against ISIS in Tikrit reeled off with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in the lead, if not in actual command. Julian Barnes of the Wall Street Journal explains that Iran will be supplying the men and leadership. The US will be waiting by the phone to supply air support if requested. The phone has not rung.
At the Pentagon on Monday, Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman, said the U.S. wasn’t providing assistance in the fight to retake Tikrit. The U.S. hasn’t conducted airstrikes in support of Iraqi forces and didn’t provide advice in planning the attack, officials said.
“We are fully aware of the operation, but the Iraqis did not request our support for it,” Col. Warren said. “Our presence in Iraq is at the request of the Iraqi government. We are there to advise them, to assist them, to support them, when they ask for it.”
Though he claims he has top billing, the president appears to be an extra in this operation. But Obama will accept whatever bit-roles are thrown his way because he needs Iran to get him out of the jam caused by his feckless withdrawal from the region. ISIS flourished in the resulting vacuum and daily humiliates the president with publicized outrages. With Obama powerless to prevent it, he needs someone who can pull him out of the quicksand.
But as the Daily Beast notes the price will be steep. “The bargain for making a deal with Iran, these critics say, has allowed Iran a free hand to assert dominance in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.” Having spent years campaigning against American military action Obama has essentially left himself no other choice but to rely on someone else. ”Such an approach is also politically unfeasible due to American war weariness and scepticism of any mission with shifting goalposts.
And Iran is charging him an arm and a leg for yanking him out of the hole. Yemen, next-door-neighbor to Saudi Arabia has now been partitioned between an Iranian client state which has as its capital Sana’a — from which the GCC embassies have evacuated — and Aden, to which they will be moving as the new capital of Sunni recognized Yemen.
Obama’s own efforts to establish “moderate rebel” forces in the region have ended in ignominious defeat, having accomplished nothing but showcase his pitiful incompetence. One of the main Obama-backed groups has just folded up and joined the enemy.
BEIRUT (Reuters) – One of the main western-backed rebel groups announced on Sunday that it had dissolved itself and joined a larger Islamist alliance, weeks into a battle which saw it lose ground and men to more powerful al Qaeda insurgents. Hazzm is one of the last remnants of non-jihadist opposition to President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria, much of which has been seized by the Nusra Front and Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda that controls roughly a third of Syria.
All hope of independent action is fading fast. Micah Zenko at Foreign Policy is calling the debacle Obama’s Bay of Pigs in the Desert. The Obama administration has effectively destroyed its own credibility, by the ample display of stupidity, possibly past the point of recovery. As a Brookings Institution article puts it “If America leads, will anyone follow?”
even if the United States is still willing and able to lead, and even if other major powers accept that it does so, Washington will likely confront the growing problem of followership. President Obama made clear in his 2014 West Point speech that future interventions by the United States in overseas conflicts will be a function of the willingness of “partners” to lend a hand. In fact, Washington has always depended to some extent on other nations to supplement its efforts, but the question for the future is whether this operating principle remains feasible.
Who wants to join the club where Obama’s the leader of the band? Not unless you want a knife in the back. The late Russian oppositionist Boris Nemetsov speaking from beyond the grave in a September, 2013 Foreign Policy article said: “Obama is a Hollywood actor, a weak man with no balls. Nobody should ever expect him to help Russians seeking civil freedom.” Whether this is true or not, there seems little doubt that some perceive him in this way and in consequence are reluctant to follow him. All that may be left to Obama is meddlesome intervention in Third World countries like Colombia and the arbitrary exercises of presidential power at home, where he remains powerful. There he can indulge his sense of importance. But in Tikrit the Iranians aren’t even asking for his help.
The president who is publicly nursing his wounded honor in anticipation of Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech is also the same president pathetically hanging on Tehran’s rulers every word, like a waiter expecting a tip. The Iranians themselves have characterized Obama as ‘desperate to reach a nuclear deal’, as if he were some loathesome toady. All the same he is counting on them to beat ISIS, having made a hash of his own efforts. What a crazy situation it is when an American president’s fortunes depend on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
But no one — even the president’s political opponents — should think they can afford the luxury of schadenfreude. By outsourcing operations to Iran Obama is giving up the last shreds of American freedom of action in the region. He is thereby opening the door to a great danger. The battle for Tikrit and Mosul beyond holds tremendous potential for unleashing a wave of atrocities against Sunnis. Simon Tisdall of the Guardian writes: