Strategic Analysis of 2014 Iraq Crisis: Local Pacifism vs. Network-based Extremism

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Behzad Khoshandam
Ph.D. Candidate in International Relations & Expert on International Issues

The ongoing crisis in Iraq and serious evolution of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group into a factor in the country’s security process is the result of unilateral supportive and discriminatory intervention by regional and transregional forces in favor of an extremist network-based current in the Middle East region.

As a result, from an Iranian viewpoint, the 2014 crisis in Iraq is the outcome of the confrontation between an irrational extremist trend and a local pacifist one. The main goal of the confrontation is to destabilize the positive developments that have taken place in the region, in general, and Iraq, in particular, during the past years.

When analyzing the reason for the importance that this crisis has for Iran's national interests, due attention should be paid to such issues as Iran's support for the Iraqi government and the territorial integrity of Iraq, Iran's support for sustainable stability in its peripheral areas, Iran's support for the establishment of stability in its spheres of influence as well as historical records, which show that anytime extremist forces have been at the helm of developments in peripheral areas of the Islamic Republic, Iran has been at loss.

Also, when analyzing regional trends as well as players and driving forces that affect the course of this crisis, one may point to such factors as terrorism, networked anarchism, radicalism, and sectarianism. Intraregional rivalries, oversimplification of governance, the role that various actors play in Iraq as proxies of transregional forces, as well as unilateral support provided by some regional actors to certain extremist groups in Iraq, are other instances to be mentioned in this regard.

From an Iranian viewpoint, the 2014 crisis in Iraq will have important consequences for regional and international security and political systems. Therefore, continuation of the crisis in Iraq and further advance of extremist forces across new territorial and geopolitical expanses, will pose serious risks to international security.

As for the future outlook of the crisis from an Iranian viewpoint, a few scenarios are conceivable which include disintegration of the Iraqi territory, temporary resolution of the crisis through negotiations, as well as escalation of extremism followed by foreign military intervention for the management of the ongoing crisis in Iraq.

As a result of strategic, geopolitical, identity-related and historical issues, the 2014 crisis in Iraq is closely related to Iran. While supporting the initiatives taken by the Iraqi government, Iran is opposed to foreign military intervention in the country’s ongoing developments. One of the measures and policies adopted by Iran in this regard was to encourage world countries to understand this security risk, showing timely reaction to the crisis, and taking advantage of new diplomatic mechanisms in order to resolve the crisis. Other measures taken by Iran to facilitate expeditious and timely resolution of the crisis in Iraq included condemning the presence of transregional military force for the resolution of the crisis, underlining the importance of consultations among regional countries to limit extremist measures, and making effort to take good advantage of pristine religious institutions as well as Shia identity, including Shia sources of emulation.

From an Iranian viewpoint, the 2014 crisis in Iraq is extension of other crises in the Middle East. With or without resolution of this crisis, the forthcoming developments in the country will cause Iraq to remain an active area of tension and conflict in the world politics and within the international political system. In addition to intervention by transregional forces in the ongoing developments of the region, the existing political, identity-related, and strategic conflicts are powerful enough to dash any hopes about the outlook of sustainable stability in Iraq. “Iraq riddle” and “Iraq crisis” will cause many problems for international community in short, medium and long terms. Future development will certainly prove that global policymakers and decision-making authorities have largely ignored Iran's concerns, proposals and strategic approaches to Iraq, both in the past and in the present time.

It seems that in view of Iran's good knowledge of multiple causes behind the 2014 crisis in Iraq and due to strategic influence of Iran's diplomatic apparatus in the country, the international community can be more benefitted by the Islamic Republic’s concerns, strategies and approaches if it really intends to put a rapid end to the Iraqi crisis. Iran's strategic influence in Iraq goes back to thousands of years ago. Therefore, if global players had chosen to take advantage of Iran's effective influence in the present-day Iraq, they would have been able to establish peace in the region and Iraq for several decades. Undoubtedly, establishing sustainable stability in Iraq on the basis of Iran's specific experiences and approaches, will lead to a win-win game for all players that are involved in Iraq’s developments.

Key Words: Strategic Analysis, Iraq Crisis, Local Pacifism, Network-Based Extremism, Iran's National Interests, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Transregional Forces, Khoshandam

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*Photo Credit: ABC News