It looked at first as though US President Barack Obama had changed course and turned to the West for partners to fight the Islamic State. Tuesday, May 26, he said that the United States was working closely with its NATO allies to partner with other countries in the fight against Islamic State militants and address challenges in Libya.
Speaking at a White House meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, Obama said: “NATO is necessarily recognizing a whole range of global challenges, particularly on what we call the Southern Front…making sure that we continue to coordinate effectively in the fight against ISIL.”
But the impression gained from those remarks was misleading.
DEBKA Weekly’s military and intelligence sources report that there is not the slightest sign of US coordination with NATO allies in Iraq. Just the reverse: On the instructions of the US commander-in-chief, Washington has handed Tehran full responsibility for the struggle against ISIS in Iraq. In fact, he has given Iran a free hand in its choice of manpower and tactics for this campaign. Washington will not interfere in these choices, but neither will the US continue to provide Iranian forces with air support.
Partly because of this deal, long Islamist convoys carrying hundreds of fighters were seen this week moving across vast distances in Iraq and Syria, without obstruction.
(See DEBKA Weekly’s map presentation attached to this article.)
Iran’s anti-ISIS campaign led by wanted Iraqi terrorist
Middle East officials define Obama’s carte blanche to Tehran in Iraq as his latest contribution to regional mayhem with three devastating consequences:
First: Since Tehran can’t muster all the troops needed for the four wars it is running in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon, it has assigned the campaign against ISIS in Iraq to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraq commander of the Popular Mobilization Committee, who led the Second Battle of Tikrit in March.
The PMC is in fact a department of the Iranian Al Qods Brigades. And Muhandis himself is on the US list of wanted terrorists.
This week, his militia was in the forefront of an operation termed by Baghdad “the battle to retake Ramadi” (which fell to ISIS last week.)
This was a misnomer. The operation had two different goals:
1. To draw ISIS forces away from Baghdad and divert them to the Saladin Province, both to relieve the capital of the Islamist threat and to distance them from the Iranian border.
2. The PMC did not engage the Islamic State’s forces face to face, but acted to cut Ramadi off from northern Iraq. This ploy, though partly successful, still left ISIS with open supply lines from the western province of Anbar.
Millions of Sunni Iraqis flee their homes from Shiite militias
Second: By letting Shiite forces loose against ISIS in Iraq, President Obama has exposed America to the charge of betraying the Iraqi Sunni community – not once but twice in less than a decade. The charge is leveled bitterly by their tribal chiefs. But already, millions of Iraqi Sunni Muslims have begun abandoning their homes in a hopeless mass exodus to seek safe haven from mortal persecution by the Shiite militias. The displacement of millions of civilians has created yet another major Middle East refugee crisis.
Third: Charges of American duplicity also come from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates.
Their rulers say that the pledge of protection against Iranian expansionism given by President Obama at their Camp David summit on May 13-14 has proved worthless.