The situation in Iraq is escalating at a tremendous pace and already is being deemed as “the next Syria“. Iran was, and remains, heavily invested in Syria (financially, diplomatically and militarily) and is most likely to be a key player in Iraq as well.
Iraq Spiraling Out Of control
ISIS, a Jihadist group so extreme that AL Qaeda denounced it, is steadily making its way to Baghdad, after taking control over 2 Iraq cities (Tikrit and Mosul) as well as some oil fields and other parts of Iraq. In Baghdad, the locals are, once again, stocking up on fuel, weapons and food.
Iran has voiced its support for the Iraqi government – Rouhani himself stated that Iran “will not allow supporters of terrorists to destabilize Iraq” – while at the same time blaming everybody “foreign powers” and the West as well as Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the situation. On the other hand, Khamenei is against US involvement in Iraq.
In the meantime, Iran, wanting to protect its interests in Iraq, sent IRGC troops, since, unlike Syria, it doesn’t have Hezbollah to operate on its behalf. As a matter of fact, a top Iraqi official was quoted thatQassem Suleimani, the head of Al Qods, the foreign arm of the IRGC, is de facto “in charge” of Iraq.
Early Monday, US Secretary of state John Kerry Arrived at Baghdad to meet with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki. The contents of their meeting are not clear.
Iraq and the Nuclear Deal
What level of cooperation, if any, can be expected between the US and Iran? Kerry told the media that the Obama administration is open to work together with Iran, but later spoke differently saying that there can be cooperation on information and knowledge basis. Other voices from the Obama administration sang another tune altogether, with the pentagon declining any military option. Obviously, any form of cooperation between the US and Iran will affect the outcome of the nuclear deal.
July 20th marks the deadline for the Iran nuclear talks and the Iranians have hinted that they are open to a connection between a possible cooperation with the US in Iraq and the nuclear deal. Experts are highly skeptical that a deal can be reached by the deadline and, as usual, nobody is really sure how Iran is going to play its hand this time. So we’ll just have to wait it up and see, day by day, how this crisis evolves.