With the Islamic State on the march in Iraq and Syria, Tehran can arguably play a more active role in stopping the advance of the terrorist grouping.
What ISIL is doing in Iraq and Syria is a fixture of international news these days. An August 6th issue of Shargh, a Tehran-based newspaper, featured an article by Ardeshir Zarei-Qanavati on the new political landscape in the region and Iran’s potential role in efforts to contain the terrorist grouping. The following is the translation of the article in its entirety:
A new wave of attacks by the Islamic State – formerly known as the Islamic State, of Iraq and the Levant – on the Iraqi towns of Sinjar and Zamar, inhabited by Kurds, Yazidis, Shiites and other ethnic and religious minorities have pitted the grouping against Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and opened a new chapter in Iraq’s history.
The capture in recent weeks by Islamic State fighters of these towns and nearby oil fields, including a pipeline that takes Iraqi oil across the border to Turkey, as well as the country’s largest dam in Mosul shows that what is unfolding in Iraq is too important to turn a blind eye to.
That the terrorist grouping is focusing its attention on the Kurdish city of Kobane in neighboring Syria means Kurds in the region are being dragged into a conflict they have so far largely stayed away from.
Unfortunately miscalculations on the part of Kurdish leaders, particularly Massoud Barzani, and their subsequent attempt to capitalize on the feud between the Iraqi central government and the Islamic State to realize their lifelong dream of an independent Kurdistan are to blame for the failure of Iraqi Kurdistan to keep its eye on the ball and remain alert to the real danger.
That Massoud Barzani is playing up the gulf between Kurdistan and the central government in Baghdad on the one hand, and failure of an irresponsible Nuri al-Maliki to compromise on the other is cause for concern, particularly at a time when the Islamic State is gaining strategic ground in Iraq. Besides, such blunders give this terrorist grouping a free hand in capturing new territory and cementing its foothold in swaths of land it has already seized.
The fact that the Islamic State is disrupting the Iraqi and Syrian stability and has now taken its war machine to the heart of Kurdish land – all close allies of Iran – establishes new grounds for Iran to step in and defend its national interests.
It is time Iran, Syria, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan formed a responsible coalition to contain the Islamic State, ensure regional stability, turn up the heat on fundamentalist terrorists, secure their territorial integrity and develop a general policy on the foundation of regional security and integrity.
In light of what is happening on the ground in northern Iraq, one can conclude that the bubble of unilateralism has already burst. It seems that Tehran, Baghdad and Erbil have come to the conclusion that adoption of unilateral policies cannot stop the monster of the Islamic State in its tracks.
At a time when relations between Baghdad and Erbil are on the rocks and both are pursuing a one-sided policy to defuse the crisis, Tehran can build on the friendly relations it maintains with both sides to bring them together and set the stage for the emergence of new equations that would serve the interests of all moderates supporting regional stability.
The Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran can build on collective regional interests and warnings by the United Nations that the recent advances of the Islamic State could result in a humanitarian catastrophe to act as a mediator and get involved in a creative and constructive political game.
In light of the fact that the Iraqi Kurdistan is in the crosshairs of the Islamic State which poses a threat to regional stability as a whole, the stage has been set for those opposed to IS to form a united front.
At a time when the Iraqi government is struggling to stop the advance of the Islamic State and Kurds are no longer under the illusion that their Peshmerga fighters can defeat the Islamic State on their own, a more prominent role on the foreign policy front is inevitable for Tehran. This is a historic opportunity which should be seized immediately in a bid to serve our national interests.
It is true that the Islamic State is at present roaming territories in Iraq and Syria, but the fact that the stability of these two countries is intertwined with Iran’s national interests makes what IS fighters are doing an attack on our homeland.
Since the international community and the West, led by the United States, are simply issuing warnings about the danger posed by the Islamic State and do nothing constructive to contain the threat they pose, the importance of the role Iran plays as a regional power becomes more evident.
As a result of inaction on the part of centrist forces in the region and divisions in their ranks as to how the Islamic State should be taken on, the terrorist grouping has turned into a snowball that poses a graver threat as it rolls further down the hill.
The Iranian diplomacy machine led by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif should focus its attention on regional developments and realities on the ground in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan to end what has so far stopped Iraqi factions from forming a united front to take on the Islamic State.
Foot-dragging is a luxury we cannot afford at this juncture. Recent developments in Iraq and Syria show that the monster of the Islamic State is barreling toward a point at which its containment or isolation would be very costly, if not impossible.
As much as the Gaza war and the hypocritical policies of Benjamin Netanyahu could be a viewed as a ploy to make nuclear talks between Iran and the United State fail, a constructive role by Iran in Iraqi equations could be regarded as a good opportunity for Tehran to ensure regional security and signal to the world community that it is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to security in the crisis-wracked region of the Middle East.