Public opinion in Turkey holds that a Muslim cannot be a terrorist and any terrorist cannot be a Muslim. In other words, terrorism and Islam cannot be reconciled. This public conviction is certainly the real attitude of the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who has formed the Alliance of Civilizations with Spain against the expectation in some quarters of a “clash of civilizations” and has been trying to restore peace with different ethnic groups in Turkey. The President himself and the majority of Turkish people believe that terrorism could be defeated intellectually not through waging war on them.
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The Obama administration is now saying that “several” Arab countries will participate in an air war against ISIS but won’t say which:
Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking from Paris, declined to say which states had offered to contribute air power, an announcement that White House officials said could await his return to testify in Congress early this week. State Department officials, who asked not to be identified under the agency’s protocol for briefing reporters, said Arab nations could participate in an air campaign against ISIS in other ways without dropping bombs, such as by flying arms to Iraqi or Kurdish forces, conducting reconnaissance flights or providing logistical support and refueling. “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that these Arab members haven’t offered to do airstrikes, because several of them have,” one State Department official said.
Ian Black considers the interests of our likely partners, saying Arab support is symbolically important but might not be that helpful:
Military capability is not a problem: Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar together have hundreds of advanced fighter aircraft, though the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has next to no experience of coordination. Politically, however, fighting with the US would require greater determination than they have yet shown to tackle the jihadis who have sent shockwaves across the region.
Officially, Turkey argues it has to keep its operations low-key because a more active posture would endanger the life of 46 of its citizens held hostage by ISIS. The jihadists kidnapped the Turks and three of their Iraqi colleagues when they overran the Turkish consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in June. Ankara says it is trying to secure the hostages’ release, but has ordered a news blackout that makes it difficult to assess where those efforts stand. …
Even without the hostage situation, Ankara would face difficult options. Turkey could take part in Western strikes against ISIS and risk a backlash from the jihadists themselves and other Islamist groups in the region. Or Turkey could refuse to have anything to do with the strikes, angering its Western allies and being a mere spectator despite its ambition to become a regional leader. Faced with that choice, Ankara appears to have decided to muddle through, officially joining the alliance against ISIS, but keeping out militarily.
Shane Harris expects the US to depend heavily on Jordan, particularly its intelligence service:
In his ISIS speech, the president stressed that the US would not enter a partnership with Bashar al-Assad to fight ISIS, but didn’t explicitly rule out working with Iran. Now the chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, Hashemi Rafsanjani, says Tehran is ready to cooperate with the US. Obama might not be, but Murtaza Hussain suspects he won’t have much choice:
Thus far, U.S. hopes against ISIS have been pinned on the group’s most palatable enemies: The Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga, and more moderate Syrian rebels. While those groups have not been defeated, their position today is weaker than ever. As such, some cooperation with America’s ostensible enemies in the Iranian military will likely be necessary to any plan to defeat the Islamic State. Obama’s non-Iranian options look particularly bleak after [Tuesday’s] shocking assassination of one of Syria’s top anti-ISIS rebel commanders and dozens of his lieutenants. The commander, Hassan Abboud, was killed in an explosion during an underground meeting. So many members of his group, Ahrar al-Sham, were killed in the explosion that it’s now unclear whether it will continue to exist and provide a key counterweight to ISIS. Ahrar al-Sham was one of the best organized Syrian opposition factions aside from ISIS.
Brian Murphy believes that “Iran is likely to be drawn into any Western-led scenarios against the Islamic State militants and their networks.” One reason why:
Flagging the above tweet, Jacob Siegel points to Iran’s deepening involvement in the ISIS conflict:
The photo reportedly shows the Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Qods force, Tehran’s chief military strategist, and the man many American officials consider to be America’s most dangerous foe on the planet. His visit to the site underscores the convergence of U.S. and Iranian interests in Iraq, and Iran’s desire to be seen as orchestrating the efforts. Amerli was clearly a defeat for ISIS and a relief for the townspeople who had held off the group for six weeks. But it’s less clear what the alliance between U.S. airpower and Iranian-backed militias says about the vision guiding the mission in Iraq. Even leaving aside questions of a grand regional strategy for the Middle East—and how our track record suggests that U.S. led wars in Iraq can benefit Iran—its not clear how the precedent set in Amerli will serve the President’s more immediate goals for resolving the war in Iraq.
Juan Cole suspects Washington and Tehran are already coordinating their efforts to some extent:
by Dish Staff
The Supreme Leader has always been pessimistic about the negotiations between Tehran and Washington, but in a statement yesterday, he called them “useless”:
Speaking to Foreign Ministry officials, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Iranian negotiators who have conducted the talks with the United States and five other world powers, and he did not call for abandoning them. But he appeared to give succor to Iranian hard-liners who are adamantly opposed to discussions that could lead to a scaling back of Iran’s nuclear program, which they insist is intended for peaceful purposes only. The remarks came two days after President Hassan Rouhani stirred controversy in Iran by calling opponents of the talks “cowards” and telling them to go to hell. Rouhani, considered a moderate, has been pushing for an agreement that would end the crippling economic sanctions against Iran. Khamenei has consistently been far more skeptical about the talks.
Reza Haghighatnejad highlights the apparent split between Khamenei and Rouhani:
In sharp contrast with Khamenei’s address earlier today, Rouhani has talked about the impact of eased sanctions, the practicalities of working with the U.S. to combat Islamic State insurgents in Iraq, the greater opportunities to tackle world issues. It’s not only the nuclear program that the world needs to talk about, Rouhani’s camp suggests, and last year’s historic phone call between Rouhani and U.S. president Barack Obama was a symbol Western media–and Rouhani—gladly embraced. Rouhani has even sought out public opinion within Iran, commissioning a poll earlier this year to identify just what the ordinary Iranian public thought about increased contact with the West.
The WaPo’s reporter in Tehran, Jason Rezaian, and his wife Yeganeh Salehi, also a journalist, were arrested a couple weeks ago:
As one of few foreign correspondents in based in Iran, Rezaian’s reporting hardly breached the sensitivities that the Iranian ruling apparatus is known to crackdown upon. His last two articles for The Washington Post covered baseball in Iran (“In Iran, a spark of enthusiasm for America’s national pastime”) and coverage of the nuclear negotiations from Vienna (“World powers agree to extend talks with Iran”). He was arrested in his home, alongside his wife, upon his return from Vienna. …
It is unclear on what charges the Iranian-Americans are detained, as official state media have verified the arrests but not the reasons behind them. An unconfirmed report by Tasnim news website, associated with Revolutionary Guards, claimed the arrests were on suspicions of spying.
The Economist notes that “Iran has long been hostile to the media”:
In a long and wide-ranging interview with David Rothkopf, Zbigniew Brzezinski opines on how the US should engage the Middle East today:
I think the whole region now, in terms of the sectarian impulses and sectarian intolerance, is not a place in which America ought to try to be preeminent. I think we ought to pursue a policy in which we recognize the fact that the problems there are likely to persist and escalate and spread more widely. The two countries that will be most affected by these developments over time are China and Russia — because of their regional interests, vulnerabilities to terrorism, and strategic interests in global energy markets. And therefore it should be in their interest to work with us also, and we should be willing to play with them, but not assume sole responsibility for managing a region that we can neither control nor comprehend.
He also thinks it’s wiser to pursue accommodation with Iran than to continue treating it as a greater threat than it really is:
Over the weekend, negotiations with Iran were given a four-month extension. The state of play:
The six powers want Iran to dramatically reduce its nuclear programme for a lengthy period of time and agree to more intrusive UN inspections. This would expand the time needed for Tehran to develop a nuclear weapon, while giving the world ample warning of any such “breakout” push.
The two sides are believed to have narrowed their positions in recent weeks on a few issues such as the Arak reactor, which could give Iran weapons-grade plutonium, and enhanced inspections. But they remain far apart on the key issue of Iran’s capacities to enrich uranium, a process which can produce fuel for reactors but also the core of a nuclear bomb.
The administration is trying to stay upbeat:
Obama administration officials insist that the talks have made major progress that justified giving negotiators until November to pursue a final deal. In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said“the very real prospect of reaching a good agreement that achieves our objectives necessitates that we seek more time.”
The Senate, however, remains a wild card – and AIPAC has been doing its usual work to buttress the case for war and for scuttling any agreement. The problem there, it seems to me, is that the necessarily private diplomacy has not allowed for a more robust and public discussion as to the costs and benefits. My own view is that the American public could be persuaded of the sanity of the least-worst option when it comes to preventing Iran getting a nuclear bomb; but the administration has been timid and defensive in its public outreach. Maybe that would change after a possible agreement. But it may be too late by then.
Majid Rafizadeh believes, for his part, that “the gaps between the six world powers and Iran would more likely require more than four months of extensions as well as a significant shift in Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s stance on his government’s nuclear program, or a remarkable change in the six world power’s stance”:
Extends to the US:
A new study published this week by the National Iranian American Council argues that the various trade sanctions the United States has maintained on Iran for more than a decade actually hurts the American economy. The NIAC, a U.S.-based organization that pushes for a peaceful resolution of differences between Washington and Tehran, calculated that between 1995 and 2012, the United States has forfeited between $135 billion and $175 billion in export revenue as a consequence of not doing business with the Islamic Republic. …