The US Is again Fighting Al Qaeda in Iraq – This Time with Iran

At the start of 2014, President Barack Obama’s Middle East diplomatic chariot seems to be drawn by two horses: one pro-Iranian; the other anti-Al Qaeda.
Neither is fully under his control, especially when they run off in opposite directions, as they do at times. The chariot then keels over and crashes. This is what happened to Obama’s ill-fated championship for the Muslim Brotherhood to bring democracy to Egypt and Syria.
For now, the two horses are running in harness in two major trouble spots, Syria and Iraq, except for one difficulty; the pair are galloping in the wrong direction in defiance of orders from the US president.
These days, world leaders often find US foreign policy hard to fathom.
It was decided in Tokyo, by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, to send a delegation to the Middle East on a tour of exploration and especially to plumb Obama’s game on the issue which most concerns them, US policy on Iran.
After touring the region’s key capitals, the Japanese delegation summed up its findings and recently submitted its report to the Tokyo government.
Its main finding was that the Obama administration’s foreign policy was more than a simple two-horse race. A case in point is the Iraqi-Syrian front.
In both countries, Al Qaeda Iraq (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – ISIS), under the command of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, is wreaking havoc, and in both places, the Obama administration has opted to work with Iran as well as with Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to defeat the jihadists.

Can the Iraq debacle be credited to Joe Biden?

This decision was made by Vice President Joe Biden, to whom Obama entrusted the Iraq arena.
(In his soon to be published memoir, Robert Gates, former Defense Secretary and CIA Director, writes this about Biden: “I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades. That must be a Guinness world record.”)
Would this description fit Biden’s Iraq policy?
There was more than one reason for Washington to throw its support behind Maliki’s offensive against Al Qaeda. One was the arrival in Iraq of 1,000 al Qaeda fighters with Western passports, some American, to join the 10,000 jihadists crossing in from Syria to fight the Shiite regime in Baghdad.
(See DEBKA Weekly 611 of Nov. 15, 2013: Al Qaeda-Iraq Presses Forward for First Jihadist State Spanning Mid East Borders.)
But Washington was chiefly motivated by its interest in helping Iran safeguard the Maliki regime in hope of a return in the form of Iranian help for a political solution of the Syrian conflict and its backing against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Assad’s long history of backing al Qaeda against the US recalled

But since late December, rumors reaching Washington suggest that this trade is far from plain sailing, DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence and counterterrorism sources report.
One rumor alleges that the ISIS has been penetrated by agents of Syrian Air Force intelligence (Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya), Bashar Assad’s most powerful intelligence arm, and they are purportedly orchestrating the jihadists’ activities.
This rumor jogged certain memories in Washington.
It was recalled in some US intelligence quarters how key members of the Assad family made their fortunes from hosting the Al Qaeda networks which funneled combatants and arms from Syria into Iraq to fight US forces in 2004, a year after the American invasion, and again in 2005.
Leading figures in this episode were Gen. Assef Shawqat, Assad’s brother-in-law, deputy Defense Minister until he was assassinated in July 2012; and Rami Makhlouf, tycoon and Assad’s maternal cousin.
The networks they harbored smuggled al Qaeda terrorists into Iraq as they poured into Syria from the Gulf, other parts of the Mid East, and from Muslim population centers in the West.

Is Assad at his old double game?

US Secretary of State at the time Colin Powell traveled to Damascus to tax Bashar Assad with double-dealing and sabotaging the American war effort. He came away furious over Assad’s denials and on the plane taking him back to Washington, Powell told reporters that the Syrian ruler had lied in his teeth several times in their interview.
Those US veteran watchers of the Iraqi and Syrian scenes, recalling their stealthy interaction, saw a rat in the ease with which Assad and his security agencies have allowed Al-Baghdadi’s legions to move out of Syria to Iraq in recent weeks.
They suspect that the Syrian president, becoming worried by the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Tehran, betrayed both their interests in Iraq by opening the door to al Qaeda’s access, exactly as he did a decade ago.
At the same time, fresh intelligence reached Washington about another double game, whereby Iran and al Maliki are suspected of deliberately overstating Al Qaeda’s battle successes, as a pretext for cracking down on the very Iraqi Sunnis, who collaborated with Washington during America’s 2003-2012 US presence in the country.
However, none of these discoveries have so far deflected the White House in Washington one whit from its two-horse policy.

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