President Barack Obama is close to a decision on a number of US military steps for thwarting the march of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, now halted at Samarra 70 km short of Baghdad. In a comment Thursday night, June 12, he said: “We do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria, for that matter.” He added that he was thinking of “short-term military things.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has been appealing to the White House for months for Apache helicopters and Hellfire air-ground rockets to fight terrorists. These Obama may now release, as well as considering token US drone attacks on ISIS targets in Iraq, for which he is most reluctant..
Thursday afternoon, Iran’s most powerful gun, the Al Qods Brigades chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, arrived in Baghdad to take over the push against ISIS, in the same way as he has managed Bashar Assad’s war in Syria, and pull together the demoralized and scattered Iraqi army.
Those steps by Washington and Tehran pave the way for the US and Iran to cooperate for the first time in a joint military endeavor.
Since ISIS forces, albeit boosted by tens of thousands of armed Sunnis flocking to the black flag, are not capable of capturing Baghdad and have halted outside the city, President Obama and Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have won a small space for deciding how to proceed.
Khamenei must determine whether Gen. Soleimani with the help of American weaponry can stop al Qaeda, save Maliki from collapse and prevent the fall of Baghdad, and whether it is worth sending an Iranian army division over to Iraq, our intelligence sources reported earlier Thursday. They have since entered Iraq and are fighting ISIS forces.
These moves by Tehran will determined how Washington acts in the coming hours.
The big winner of the ISIS onslaught on Iraq, apart from Al Qaeda, is the semiautonomous Kurdish republic in the north. When the Iraqi army's 12th division assigned with defending Kirkuk and its oil fields scattered to the four winds Thursday, the Kurdish Peshmerga army rolled right in and snatched the city and oil fields from the control of the Baghdad government, fulfilling an old Kurdish dream.