US prepares for Iraq
On July 9, CNN spread the news that the U.S. is planning to attack the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, with drones. The American press has also created the impression in the last few days that Washington might conduct an airstrike soon. Within this context, I was in Washington last week to grasp what the Obama administration is planning with regard to Iraq and Syria.
The U.S. administration is feeling the heavy price of staying out of Iraq. Iran has already filled in the vacuum created by Washington, meaning that a Shiite state, which might be formed in southern Iraq, will be Iran’s satellite state. The very same vacuum also serves to the interests of ISIL, which just pertains to forming a Sunni state in central Iraq.
However, at the same time, the American public, administration and military want to stay out of the region. This is why Washington has formed its strategy as follows: intervening with Iraq by staying out of it.
The U.S. is planning a very limited airstrike, which means only targeting ISIL leaders and their dominated areas by drones. A senior official from the administration, with whom I spoke, confirmed this. According to him, the surveillance and reconnaissance drones that were sent to Iraq two weeks ago are collecting intelligence on the field. Drone attacks will start only when there is enough intelligence gathered.
Another one of my sources told me the drone attacks had already begun last week. Yet, I have not been able to get this verified by any other source. Hence, I would rather say it is just around the corner.
Intelligence is not the only reason why the U.S. is postponing the drone attacks. Washington has been heavily engaged with trying to convince Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to step down. However, conducting an airstrike against ISIL would only strengthen his position. In other words, the U.S. is telling al-Maliki: “First you go; then we’ll shoot.”
Does the Kurds’ call for independence also serve the interests of the U.S. in these terms? In other words, is Washington warning al-Maliki saying: “If you don’t step down, we will support the Kurds.” This is highly possible.
Then is al-Maliki paying attention to Washington? This is where Iran steps in – the U.S. wants Iran to convince al-Maliki to step down and work for the formation of a new inclusive government. Hence, it is closely cooperating with Iran.
And here comes the biggest dilemma ever: On one hand, the U.S. is afraid of Iran’s rising power in the region and that Iran could use this situation as a bargaining card in nuclear negotiations. On the other hand, it brings Iran into the equation. Moreover it is already doing that by not getting actively engaged with Iraq.
So is CNN’s allegation true? Is al-Baghdadi going to be the U.S.’ first target? Another one of my sources, who is close to the Obama administration, raises the following claim: First the ISIL base in Syria will be attacked. In this way five birds will be killed with one stone – ISIL will be attacked without having helped al-Maliki. It will also be a relief for the Syrian opposition. And a great harm for Bashar al-Assad, who depends on ISIL in terms of fighting against opposition forces. And this will also remove the ISIL card from his hands, since he will not be able to show himself as lifesaver against ISIL anymore.
My source also added that ISIL’s main logistical base is in Syria. Hence this would also greatly harm the organization. Last, but not least, it will serve as a strategic move against Syria’s main supporters, Iran and Russia.