Two new issues have emerged regarding the Obama administration’s policy towards ISIS, which was announced last week in President Obama’s speech to the nation. Both are connected to Iran: (a) the positions the administration will take regarding cooperation with it in fighting ISIS and (b) in negotiations regarding Iran’s nuclear centrifuges.
Should the United States accept Iran as a partner in its fight to “degrade and destroy” ISIS? Already, many self-proclaimed “realists” have argued for its necessity.
In today’s Washington Post, Fareed Zakaria states:
If President Obama truly wants to degrade and destroy the Islamic State, he must find a way to collaborate with Iran — the one great power in the Middle East with which the United States is still at odds. Engagement with Iran – while hard and complicated — would be a strategic game-changer, with benefits spreading from Iraq to Syria to Afghanistan.
To defeat ISIS, he argues, one must influence the Sunnis, something the Shia-dominated Iraq government has not been able to accomplish. Since that regime has been funded by Iran for many years, Iran alone has the power to force them to be more inclusive, and to commit to seriously forging a fighting force against ISIS. Iran’s help, he says, is “invaluable, perhaps vital.” Zakaria also thinks a power-sharing government be built in Syria, in which Assad will stay in power. Iran too, he notes, can help with this.
What he argues for is nothing less than the imperative of aligning with tyrants that have waged terrorism abroad as well as against their own people, all for the goal of defeating ISIS — which both Iran and the United States favor for different reasons. He ignores that Iran poses a very real threat to world stability, especially in the Middle East. As they have shown in the ongoing nuclear talks, Iran has shrewdly used such claims to stand firm in its goal of building a nuclear weapon, confident that its ability to play the United States will continue.
Others have claimed aligning with Iran is no different than aligning with the Soviet Union to defeat Hitler during World War II. As Gary Schmitt and David Adesnik point out at Fox News: “Our partnership with Stalin during World War II was one that arose from desperation.” Moreover, Stalin’s troops suffered the most and did most of the worst fighting, and Soviet armed forces died in the thousands, saving the lives of American GIs who otherwise would have had the job done by the Russians. As Churchill well put it, he would sign a pact with the Devil if it guaranteed the defeat of the Nazis.
In today’s world, to ennoble one terrorist regime to help gain its goals in order to defeat a non-state terrorist group simply makes no sense whatsoever. The West might eventually have to use combat forces in some areas to make air strikes work. But to depend on Iran to do that, which it may very well be willing to do, will further destabilize the region and enhance its power throughout the Middle East.
The desire of many, including some in the Obama administration, to align with Iran leads one to suspect that a deal might be accepted that allows Iran to keep its centrifuges at a level close to completion. Would the U.S. sign such a deal and claim that it is a path to real disarmament? Many factors indicate that is the case.
The Times of Israel reports that the United States is considering “softening present demands that Iran gut its uranium enrichment program in favor of a new proposal that would allow Tehran to keep nearly half of the project intact while placing other constraints on its possible use as a path to nuclear weapons.” If true, it indicates that giving in to Iran is something the United States might do in exchange for Iran remaining cooperative in fighting ISIS.
Diplomats tell the paper that it envisages letting Iran keep 4500 centrifuges while reducing its stock of uranium gas so that it would take Iran only one year, not weeks or months, to create material to build a nuclear bomb. Negotiators believe Iran can claim they have not given in nor ended their enrichment capabilities, while the U.S. could argue it succeeded in forcing them to downgrade their original aims for a year.
Israel, according to its intelligence minister, “strongly opposes leaving thousands of centrifuges active in Iran,” an act which he said is “reminiscent of the failed deal reached in 2007 with North Korea, which now possesses ten nuclear warheads.”