U.S. and Iran Have Different Strategic Objectives

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Ephraim Kam - The success by ISIS is also a failure for Iran. Iran's goal in Iraq was to build a weak and non-threatening but stable and unified country, dependent on Iran and led by a Shiite majority connected to Iran. The ISIS takeover of parts of Iraqi territory is a serious cause for worry for Iran, which perceives it as a part of the greater Sunni-Shiite struggle. The Sunni success hurts the Shiites, who are the basis of Iran's influence in Iraq. While both the U.S. and Iran are eager to curb and eliminate the jihadi stronghold in Iraq, their respective strategic objectives are different, if not contradictory. Washington seeks to build a democratic government in Iraq that will be linked to the U.S., reduce Iranian influence, and reassure the Sunnis in the country. Iran, on the other hand, seeks to expand its influence in Iraq, strengthen the Shiites there, and distance the country from the U.S. Given the geographical proximity and ties to the Shiites, who represent 60% of the population in Iraq, Iran has a considerable advantage over the U.S. in building influence there. An attempt by the U.S. to cooperate with Iran on Iraq when the objectives of the two countries are contradictory could prove to be a serious mistake. Moreover, ultimately, Iran will want compensation for cooperating with the U.S., primarily in the form of an acceptable deal regarding the nuclear issue. The writer was a colonel in the Research Division of IDF Military Intelligence.

2014-06-27 00:00:00

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