It is an unusual coalition of forces that are gathering to challenge Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's Islamic State fighters in Tikrit.
Erin Cunningham writing in the Washington Post tells us:
BAGHDAD — Of all the allies that Iraqi forces might work with to defeat the Islamic State, the Jubbour tribe would seem to be among the most ideal.Whatever the Obama administration and its Iranian partner may be planning for our friends in ISIS, those plans are entirely opaque and that is as it should be. There is no reason for the US and its allies to signal their punches.
Its members are powerful, pro-government and eager to take on the jihadists. But for Shiite leaders in Baghdad, there was one problem: the Jubbour tribesmen are Sunnis — and from an area where local tribes have collaborated with the Islamic State.
What it is beginning to look like, however, is a fairly serious operation in Iraq, using Iranian Shia military leadership and Iraqi troops, both Sunni and Shia, to push back on an important ISIS stronghold. Given American influence within Iraq, it makes sense to start there. The Islamic State, of course, is also in Syria, but Syria looks considerably more difficult because there are no significant forces in that country that we can possibly have any faith in.
The Iraqi army, however, is under American training and we will see if they honestly have the will to fight for their own country.
I see Tikrit as an important test, because a defeat there would be very humiliating to Abu Bakr and his people and might tend to stem the influx of True Believers. Perhaps I am mistaken, but my take on the current Caliphate is that it is something like a shark. It must keep moving in order to survive. ISIS must continually take more land and more people into the fold in order to maintain the faith and allegiance of its followers.
If it looks weak or if it looks cautious, the types of people enticed by the romantic glory of medieval Islam will be far less likely to fling themselves into a losing proposition. (Or so one would hope, in any case.) Would three young, dumb, Muslim British girls make their way to the Islamic State, via Turkey, if it looked as if Abu Bakr and his people are being readied to be heaved upon the trash heap of history?
I would not think so.
Furthermore, there are fundamental questions in need of asking. If the Iranian military is coordinating with US Intelligence, what does this say about a potential US - Iranian alliance in the Middle East? And what does that suggest about Obama administration intentions regarding Iranian nukes? And, of course, what does all of this mean for US - Israeli relations?
When thinking about Netanyahu's recent speech before Congress and The Bad Deal with Iran, we need to keep in mind that it seems as if the Obama administration is resetting US - Iranian relations and seeking to make Iran into a global partner of the United States.
Although the United States wants its allies where it can find them, do we really want to find them within the international movement for political Islam?
One of my major, ongoing criticisms of the Obama administration is that it seems to think that it can partner with some Islamists, while opposing others. This is a terrific mistake because, whatever else it might result in, it legitimizes a political movement that stands in stark contrast to everything that we hold dear in the West.
How is it any better than when American Cold War administrations bolstered anti-Communist authoritarian regimes throughout Asia and Latin America?
More and more, it looks as if the Obama administration is endeavoring to create an alliance with an authoritarian theocratic regime that hangs Gay people from cranes, calls for the annihilation of the Jewish State of Israel, and has absolutely zero interest in either democracy or social justice.
The Islamic State is greatly in need of unequivocal defeat. In truth, it needs to be squashed like a bug. But partnering with Iran is a monumentally bad idea unless, or until, the people of Iran topple this highly aggressive Islamist government.