Obama Won’t Use ISIS As Leverage Over Iran’s Nukes

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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White House spokesman Josh Earnest suggested Thursday that the U.S. won’t use its planned campaign against ISIS to extract concessions from Iran in stalled nuke talks.

The White House’s concession is one of a long series of concessions that have weakened the United States’ ability to stop Iran’s nuclear-development program, said Jonathan Schanzer, vice-president for research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

“Our enemies feel rather comfortable, our allies feel like they’re twisting in the wind, and there’s a sense of things being upside-down in the world of Americans foreign policy,” he said.

“Iran, like other nations in the region, does have an interest in not seeing an organization like ISIL wrecking havoc in their neighborhood and potentially on their borders,” Earnest told reporters during the Sept. 11 midday press conference.

ISIS has captured much of eastern and northern Iraq. It is trying to destroy the Iraq government and to expand its power throughout Iraq to the borders of its two main enemies, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran is reportedly providing more soldiers and more funding to protect Iraq — and its ally, Syria — from ISIS’s advances. Many Iranians have reportedly been killed in combat with ISIS.

But now Obama has volunteered U.S. forces to block ISIS’s advance with airpower, trainers and battlefield advisors.

ISIS is a jihad army that is based on Sunni Islamic beliefs. ISIS hates Iran’s Muslim theocracy, which is based on Shia Islam that ISIS considers as heresy. In its advance, ISIS has murdered many captured Shia soldiers from the Iraqi army, and now threatens to defeat Iraq’s Shia-majority government.

However, Earnest indicated said the U.S. would not ask Iran for other concessions in exchange for using U.S. soldiers to contain ISIS’s advance. For example, the U.S. is now trying to advance the slow-moving, and possibly stalled, negotiations by six world powers and Iran that is intended to keep Iran from developing a nuclear armory.

Officials from the six countries recently restarted negotiations where U.S. and Iranian officials discussed the ISIS threat, Earnest said.

However, those ISIS discussions were not part of the nuclear negotiations. “I do want to emphasize that those conversations took place on the sidelines of those talks, not in the context of those talks,” Earnest clarified.

Even though U.S. forces are preparing to use airpower to keep ISIS away from Iran, U.S. officials are merely asking Iran to support the formation of a new Iraqi Shia-led led government that includes some Sunni ministers, Earnest indicated.

The unified government is intended to keep some Sunni tribes on the side of government and out of ISIS forces.

“In terms of what we would like to see Iran do, we have previously indicated that because of threat posed by ISIS, and because of the critical role that will and can be played by an inclusive unified [Iraqi] government, that we would hope that Iran would be generally supportive of the kind of inclusive government in Iraq that is necessary to unite that diverse country to face down the existential threat that is posed by ISIS,” said Earnest.

“That kind of [Iranian] political support will continue to be welcomed,” Earnest continued.

“That said, the administration has previously — and I will again — ruled out military coordination between the United States and Iran,” he said.

The U.S. has weakened its clout and its ambitions in the nuke talks, Schanzer said.

“Many issues have not been discussed on the sideline of the talks,” Schanzer said. “Iran’s support for Hamas, Iran’s support for Hezbollah, Iran’s support for [anti-U.S.] militias in Iraq [which attacked U.S. forces] … these are all things that should have been discussed.”

Also, the U.S. government has relaxed economic sanctions on Iran even before a final deal is signed, Schanzer stated.

In 2010, Obama remained silent while pro-democracy demonstrators called for a change in Iran’s government. Subsequently, the demonstrators were jailed or shot, ending the pro-democracy marches.

Iran’s theocracy has waged a slow-motion war against the United States and Israel since 1979, mostly by funding terror groups that have attacked thousands of U.S. and Israel soldiers and civilians. In Iraq, for example, Iran provide armor-penetrating roadside bombs that killed hundreds of U.S. soldiers from 2005 to 2008.

“We continue to relinquish our leverage… [so] it looks as if we are trying to placate Iranians,” said Schanzer.

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