Although Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu again appealed to US Congress not to approve the “dream deal” won by Iran, this deal was not his main business with US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter whom he was due to meet Monday, July 20. Carter himself told reporters that the two countries could “agree to disagree.”
Israel’s overriding concern at this time, debkafile’s military sources report, is about Tehran’s possible endgame in fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, i.e. driving ISIS fighters to confront Israeli forces on the Golan and also reach the Jordanian border.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are in command of the “Popular Mobilization Forces,” a collection of pro-Iranian Shiite militias put together to combat ISIS in Iraq. Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon will ask Carter if the US has any control over the Iranian command centers in Iraq and Syria, and is in a position to stop Tehran harnessing Hizballah and Syrian troops to help those militias remove the threat ISIS poses to their allies in Damascus and Baghdad by diverting them to Israel and Jordan.
This peril first raised its head when, straight after the six powers signed the Vienna nuclear deal with Iran on July 14, US security officials, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif declared that the next move was to build a broad coalition for fighting ISIS.
Netanyahu raised this concern with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, when he arrived in Jerusalem on July 16, two days after the Vienna deal was concluded. Although the Secretary’s formal mission was to elucidate the accord to Israel’s leaders, his real purpose was to hand him a letter from British Prime Minister David Cameron. In this letter, Cameron explained that his decision to extend RAF bombing missions from Iraq to Syria (depending on parliament’s approval in September) had nothing to do with Washington’s policies, but was solely motivated by the Islamist threat hanging over British national security.
Britain, he said, was not acting in support of the Syrian-Iranian-Hizballah lineup against the Islamist group; nor was it part of the Obama administration’s turnabout in favor of supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad. British bombers would target ISIS in the UK’s own interests.
Netanyahu discussed with Hammond the extent of US coordination with Iran’s military steps in Iraq. He said that if this tight partnership spilled over into Syria, Israel might be put willy-nilly in a position of proactive defense. The prime minister informed his British guest, intending the message to reach Washington too, that Israel has no intention of allowing itself to be pushed to the wall by an Iranian-commanded Shiite force prospectively sitting on its border, or by Islamist jihadis driven out of their Syrian strongholds and dumped there.
Saturday, July 7, Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Command, arrived on an unannounced visit to Baghdad. Closeted with US officers and Iraqi political and military officials, Dempsey reviewed the state of the war on ISIS and determined that Iraq does not require additional troops or “advisers” on the ground to assist Iraqi forces to displace the ISIS terrorists.
Clearly, more and more of the onus for fighting the Islamic State is being passed by Washington to Tehran.
Dempsey made a point of discussing the operation to liberate Ramadi which the Islamists captured in mid-May. “The object now is to isolate Ramadi, to deny ISIL the ability to either withdraw or reinforce,” he said.
On paper, it is the Iraqi army which is leading this important counter-offensive. On the ground, it is being fought by Iran-led Shiite “Popular Mobilization Forces.”
The signal conveyed by Dempsey was read in Israel, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, ahead of the Ashton Carter visit to their capitals this week: Don't expect the Obama administration to back away from its close cooperation with Iran in the struggle against ISIS. This was the direct follow-up to the nuclear deal, regardless of how Iran’s empowerment might affect their national security.