The US and Iran took the first steps for their military cooperation in Iraq on June 16, at the same time as Israel declared war on Tehran’s Palestinian ally, Hamas, in the wake of a fruitless four-day sweep of the West Bank Hebron region for the three Israeli teenagers kidnapped on June 12, and the detention of hundreds of Hamas activists – which Israel leaders said was just the beginning.
The talks between Washington and Tehran on working together in Iraq (A prospect first envisaged by DEBKA Weekly 639 on June 14) were revealed Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry who told a Yahoo interviewer that the US is “open to discussing any constructive process here… Let’s see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements. I would not rule out anything that would be constructive to providing real stability.”
He also said that President Obama was vetting "every option that is available," including drone strikes.
But, for once, reality moved ahead of diplomatic caution.
Overnight, President Obama informed Congress that up to 275 troops could be sent to Iraq to provide support and security for US personnel and the American Embassy in Baghdad,which with a staff of 5,000 is the largest in the world. About 170 of those forces are already in Iraq.
debkafile: That is only the first step, to be followed by more. US naval, air and Marine forces are assembling in the Persian Gulf ready to go in.
Ahead of them, Iran sent at least 2,000 troops and the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimeni to Baghdad.
Monday, The Iraqi crisis deteriorated further when ISIS seized Tal Afar, a key city on the Syrian border for its Islamist state which is planned to span Iraq and Syria.
US and British sources report that Washington and Tehran are in practical talks on their respective roles: One proposal is for the US to provide air cover for Iranian ground troops and support in the form of air strikes against Al Qaeda targets.
The repercussions of this collaboration may at some point intersect with Israel’s long-delayed confrontation with Tehran’s Palestinian proxy, Hamas.
Israel’s leaders issued a blunt declaration of war on the Palestinian Hamas Tuesday, June 16, when the three Israeli teenagers remained missing. The mass detentions of Hamas activists was just the start of the pressure aimed at crushing their organization’s terrorist infrastructure, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, declared after their latest situation update.
More and tougher military operations were coming until the mission was accomplished – however grave the consequences and however long it takes, they said.
The chief of staff also made it clear that the IDF stands ready to hit back at Hamas’ Gaza strongholds in the event of a Hamas rejoinder to the harsh pressure clamped down on its West Bank organization.
By its policy of silence – abstaining from owning up to the kidnapping or uttering a single word about it – Hamas has left Israel with no option but to confront the extremist organization head-on to force the issue.
Hamas’ political leaders in the West Bank and Gaza Strip – or even its military officers – may be ignorant of the boys’ whereabouts and constrained from admitting as much. Only a very tight hard core may be in possession of this information.
This kind of standoff follows the lines of the abduction in 2006 of the Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit by an international terrorist league of which Hamas was a member. It took years for the circumstances of his capture to come to light after the Palestinian group gained the release of nearly a thousand of its jailed members.
In the case of Naftali Frenkel, Gil-Ad Sha’ar and Eyal Yifrach, debkafile’s intelligence sources report that the IDF, Mossad, AMAN and the Shin Bet are better informed than they were in the hunt Gilead Shalit. This information is kept under tight wraps so as not to compromise the search.
But in the absence of a glimmer of light, Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz cut through the emotionally-charged atmosphere in the country with a caution to be patient because the operation to smash Hamas, though determined and all-encompassing, is likely to be protracted and difficult.
It is also worth noting that even if leads to the mystery do turn up, the IDF and government may find as often before that their hands are tied by interminable legalistic quibbles and delays. Israeli left wing fringes make a habit of teaming up with Palestinian associates to throw up walls against security-related actions by petitions to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem to defeat or at least slow down those actions.
At the same time, it is to the credit of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas that, appreciating the complexity of the crisis and Israel’s sensitivities, picked up the phone and for the first time in many months talked to Binyamin Netanyahu. After condemning the abductions, he said he hoped the boys would return home safely. He also assured the Israeli prime minister of his continued cooperation, notwithstanding the constant assaults directed against him and the Palestinian Authority’s security and intelligence agencies.
That call was the first positive outcome of Netanyahu’s actions in this episode and the only one so far.
It will be interesting to see how the juxtaposition of the first US-Iranian military coordination in Iraq and Israel’s operation to hammer Tehran’s protégée, both epic events, affects US-Israeli relations.