Secretary of State John Kerry called the Islamic Republic of Iran’s efforts in Iraq “helpful,” CNN reported June 28. Kerry further claimed the U.S. and Iran “have a common interest” in Iraq.
Kerry’s comments come days after the Iraqi government claimed to have fully liberated the city of Fallujah from the Islamic State. Iranian-backed forces, and even Iranian generals, were a central part of the effort to retake the predominantly Sunni city.
The Iraqi government’s decision to retake Fallujah at this time represents the colossal influence of Iran over an ostensible U.S. ally. Colonel Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S. led Anti-ISIS coalition, told reporters May 14 there is “no military reason” to take retake Fallujah at this time. The Institute for the Study of War pointed out that retaking Fallujah was much more in the interest of Iran because the city, “is relevant to the security of Shi’a populations and a de-facto likely forward line of Iranian-backed troops.”
The U.S. has long prioritized retaking Mosul over any other ISIS held city in Iraq, for symbolic reasons and to cut the so called “caliphate” in half from its power-base in Syria. The U.S. backed Iraqi government’s turn to Iranian priorities raises troubling questions for the future of Iraq. The U.S. desires a multi-ethnic unified Iraq, while Iran wants a reliable Shiite proxy state. If Iran pressures Baghdad to continue oppressing Sunnis in Iraq, it may create the same resentment that gave rise to ISIS. Countless experts of expressed anxiety over such a dynamic becoming reality.
President Obama’s own special envoy to defeat ISIS, Brett McGurk admitted to CNN, between 15-20% of these Iranian backed militias “are a fundamental problem.” Iranian-backed militias have no goal other than full scale Shiite domination in the future Iraq. These militias have well documented records of massacring Sunni civilians, and during the U.S. occupation of Iraq they were responsible for a large percentage of U.S. casualties.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress a year ago, “I know the total number of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines that were killed by Iranian activities, and the number has been recently quoted as about 500.”
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