Time for a U.S. Triage in the Mideast

Time for a U.S. Triage in the Mideast

As many have already noted, if the U.S. government uses force against ISIS on behalf of the Maliki government in Iraq, it will in effect be allying itself with Iran—not such a hot idea under current circumstances, when most of our Sunni associates already think we’re screwing them. We don’t want to tempt forms of self-help like the Saudi government inviting Pakistani nukes, complete with crews, onto Saudi soil. It has also not gone without mention that it looks weird to be opposing a Sunni coalition force in Iraq while we’re (sort of) supporting the same force in Syria. Weird is maybe not strong enough a word to describe such full-frontal policy incoherence. We should therefore not attack ISIS formations, either stationary or in motion—at least not yet. We should, on the other hand, rapidly and boldly move to support Jordan, which is dealing with a backbreaking refugee crisis. We should reaffirm our commitments to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait; we should let the Bahrainis and Qataris guess our attitudes toward them. Above all, we should further tighten relations with the Kurds in what used to be northern Iraq but is now an independent state in everything but name. We probably should try to get on the same sheet of music with the Kurds, offering support but counseling prudence—in other words, collecting some leverage so we can influence the behavior of Barzani et al. in future. Personally, I’m fine with the Kurds in Kirkuk, so long as they occupy and eventually stabilize the city with genuine justice for all of the city’s communities.

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