ISIS Onslaught, Iran's Opportunity to Catalyze Reconciliation between Baghdad and Arbil

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Ardeshir Zare’i-Qanavati
Expert on International Relations

The Islamic State of the ISIS has launched its new wave of attacks against the northern Iraqi towns of Sinjar and Zamar where the population is a mixture of Kurds, Yazidi community, Shias as well as other ethnic and religious minorities. This development on top of recent direct and intense conflicts between the members of the ISIS Islamic State and Kurdish Peshmerga have taken the situation of Iraq to a totally new level. Capture of these towns and oil fields around them, which also include a major pipeline transferring Iraq’s oil to the neighboring Turkey as well as domination of the ISIS forces on the biggest dam of Iraq located in the mountainous area near the city of Mosul in recent weeks are telltale signs of a new development which cannot be ignored easily. The group has been also active in Syria trying hard to conquer the important Kurdish town of Kobani close to the border between Syria and Turkey. All these developments have got Kurds in Iraq and Syria involved in a regional conflict, which up to recently was just of marginal importance to them.

Unfortunately, a political miscalculation prompted the leaders of the Iraqi Kurdish Region, especially its president, Massoud Barzani, to try to take advantage of conflict between the central government in Iraq and the ISIS in order to make their dream of having an independent Kurdish state come true. This miscalculation, however, caused the Kurdish Regional Government to ignore the real threat posed to it. Highlighting the differences between the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the central government in Baghdad by Barzani and irresponsible reaction of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, who refused to accept the idea of establishment of a national unity government, have been source of great concern.

All these mistakes were made at a time that the ISIS war machine has been conquering more strategic regions of Iraq with every day passing, as a result of which the terrorist Takfiri group has felt totally free to expand its realm and tighten its grip on the captured regions.

Now that the ISIS is playing its role in undermining stability and security in Iraq and Syria and has gotten the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, all close allies of Iran, involved in the conflict, it is time for Tehran to make the most of new equations to play its role in regional developments while protecting its own national interests. The time is now ripe for better and more responsible unity among Iran, Syria, Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region in order to contain further progress of the ISIS. They should also cooperate in protecting regional stability, fighting extremist and Takfiri terrorism, and protecting their own territorial integrity while coming up with a unified policy revolved around their national interests and aimed at protecting security and integrity of the region.

In the meantime, in view of the recent developments in northern Iraq and in the light of the realities on the ground, all parties should put an end to illusionary and unilateral measures in this fateful conflict. It seems that Tehran, Baghdad and Arbil (the capital city of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region) should have come to the conclusion that no unilateral policy would be able to put an end to further progress of the monster known as the ISIS. During all this time, and due to their tense relations, Baghdad and Arbil have been following their own unilateral policies throughout this conflict. This can provide Tehran with a golden opportunity due to cordial relations it has with both sides in Iraq, to serve as a connecting bridge and pivot of unity and help create new equations in that country, which would guarantee the interests of all moderate forces that wish to maintain stability in Iraq.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry can make good use of this opportunity and take mediatory measures aimed at protecting the interests of all involved parties. Now that even the United Nations has warned about recent advances of the ISIS and has clearly declared that Iraq could face a human catastrophe, it is time for Iran to proactively enter an innovative and constructive political game in that country. At present, due to mounting pressure by terrorist forces of the Islamic State on the government of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and as a result of the dire threat that the ISIS has posed to stability and integrity of that region, all objective and subjective conditions are present to provide a good ground for a united action by all forces that are opposed to the ISIS.

Under the present circumstances, when the central government in Baghdad has failed in its efforts to prevent further progress of the ISIS, and the Kurdistan Region has relatively distanced from the illusionary idea that its Peshmerga forces are powerful enough to subdue the ISIS, Tehran is offered with a historical opportunity to play a high-profile political role in its foreign policy. This is an opportunity which should be inevitably used by Iran to achieve its national goals. It is true that the ISIS is currently only active in Syria and Iraq, but since stability and security in those countries are closely related to the national interests of Iran, an attack on those two countries will be, in fact, an attack on Iran's interests. Although the international community and Western countries, topped by the United States, have frequently talked about the threat posed by the ISIS to the entire region, they have taken no constructive measure to contain this threat. As a result, it is for the Islamic Republic, as a regional power that is opposed to all the equations that have led to the rise of the ISIS, to fulfil its great responsibility.

As a result of the passivity and distance among moderate forces in the region and their inability to join hands in dealing with the Islamic State, the ISIS has turned into a snowball falling from a mountain which gets bigger as it goes down. The Iranian diplomatic apparatus headed by Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif should concentrate on new developments in the region and carefully study objective realities faced by Baghdad and the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. By doing so, it will be able to work as the “missing link” that has so far prevented various Iraqi factions from becoming united in their fight against the Islamic State of the ISIS. The time is past for dealing cautiously with the ISIS because in the light of the ongoing developments in Iraq and the group’s activities in Syria, this monster is approaching the point of no return. Once it crosses that point, it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to control or defeat it or even to isolate it within specific limits.

The war on the Gaza Strip and the subversive policy followed by the Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can be considered a trap for Iran to bring nuclear negotiations between the Islamic Republic and the United States to total failure. On the opposite, playing a constructive role by Iran in the new equations of Iraq will provide Tehran with a good opportunity to play its role in maintaining regional stability while giving the message to the international community that Iran is still the main agent of balance and security in the crisis-ridden environment of the Middle East region.

Key Words: ISIS Onslaught, Iran's Opportunity, Reconciliation, Baghdad and Arbil, Iraqi Kurdish Region, Nouri Al-Maliki, Massoud Barzani, Iranian Foreign Ministry, Zare’i-Qanavati

Source: Shargh Daily
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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