Iraq, Iran and IS
Over the past week or so various events in areas in the Middle East where Islamic extremists are wreaking havoc suggest no diminution in threats and deaths inflicted by extremist groups, a worrying expansion in the involvement of an Iran which is led by extremists and a heightened confrontation between Shia and Sunni countries. There is however no sign that Obama will change the US’s policy of limiting its involvement in preventing or tackling extremist activity. In fact, there are increasing queries in the US about the role Obama is playing. Following are some of the main developments.
- Abbott announced that an additional 300 troops are being sent to help train Iraqi forces. While this (and Australia’s air strikes) responds to an invitation by the current Iraqi government, there is increasing concern about the capacity of Iraq to govern itself. A US military official (the US has 3,000 “trainers” in Iraq) is reported to have commented that, after the US troop withdrawals, the leaders in Iraq army developed corrupt behaviour and training slipped badly;
- Iraqi PM Haider visited Obama in the US but no outcome helpful to Iraq appears to have emerged. In fact, Haider said afterwards that he needed the US to supply additional heavy military equipment to help combat continued attacks by IS even after the latter’s loss of Takrit (there have been similar comments by Ukrainian leaders trying to hold back Russian intrusions);
- Iranian President Rouhani said the US Congress should not involve itself in the negotiations over the agreement by the US and five European powers to remove sanctions if Iraq undertakes to limit the development of its nuclear industry so that it cannot produce weaponry for a number of years. A White House spokesman said Congress will “have a role” when it comes to voting on the sanctions. But Rouhani’s statement implies that Iran feels itself to be in a much better strategic position following the in principle nuclear agreement and indications that Obama wants to complete it;
- The Iranian Foreign Minister condemned the air strikes by Saudi Arabia against Houthi militants who have taken over large chunks of Yemen and who are supported by Iran. This indicates a widening in differences between Shia and Sunni Islamists and confirms no intervention by the US to help the government it supported in Yemen (Kerry uttered a complaint to Iran but such complaints by Kerry have little credibility as the recipients know Kerry has little capacity to do anything about it);
- Russia announced it would supply Iran with a missile defence system that would make the execution of any air strike much more difficult. Putin too knows the US will not be able to do anything about it;
- In a public speech Israeli PM Netanyahu accused Iran of seeking to control the region, to spread outwards and destroy the Jewish state. He likened Iran to Nazi Germany
The attached analysis by a US political commentator attempts to explain Obama’s behaviour and statements about the Middle East, the “agreement” involving a relaxation of relations with Cuba, and climate change policy.
The analyst’s description of the Cuban venture well illustrates the serious problem with “Obamoism”. Obama set out to restore friendly relations with Cuba but appears to have offered changes on the US side without seeking any substantive changes by Cuba ( indeed, as one observer pointed out Obama was thanking Castro for being prepared to discuss relations!) For example, he is offering to remove Cuba from the list of countries subject to embargos because of their operation of government-run terrorist schemes, which in Cuba’s case seek to encourage communist take-overs in Latin America (only Iran, Sudan and Syria are the only other countries on this list).
The conclusion of the analyst is that in this and other policy decisions Obama is acting on the basis that, as America is widely regarded as a threat, action by him to reduce or eliminate that threat will allow the rest of the world to prosper and so too America. While it is hard to believe that Obama could be operating on this basis, it is now so difficult to explain his behaviour that the analyst appears to have some credibility.
It also fits with an article in the Wall St Journal by former US Attorney General, Mukasey and a senior legal adviser to a Congressional security committee, that the head of the CIA (John Brennan) is publicly rejecting criticism of the nuclear agreement with Iran. The former AG points out that Brennan, who was appointed by Obama, has a record of making off-beam comments which downplay the threat from Islamic terrorists and opposes the use of “jihadist” as a jihad is simply “a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam”. This leads the former AG to propose the establishment by Congress of a “Team B” of intelligence analysts ie the existing team under Brennan cannot be trusted to accurately report on Iran.
This article, which appeared in The Australian on 16 April but does not seem available digitally, is of considerable importance in assessing the decisions being made by the US Administration under Obama. Indeed, it raises serious questions about the credibility of Australia’s most important ally.
Today’s news that 5 arrests have been made of young Muslims in Melbourne suburbs raises a question as to why action had not been taken against the prayer body which had been attended by the Muslim (Haider) who attempted last year to stab two Victorian police but was shot. The 5 arrested appear to have been friends with Haider and, while police had been monitoring their behaviour, it seems likely that their attendance at the prayer body would have included the hearing of preachers of violence and possibly even support for these terrorists plot of taking action in the context of the forthcoming Anzac parade. Note also that it is reported that the Turkish President is instructing tourist guides to say that Gallipoli was a victory for Allah over the Western infidels.