A Few Thoughts on Possible US-Iran Collaboration in Iraq

Iraqi Shiite men clean weapons as they get ready to defend their Sadr City district in case of an attack by Sunni extremists,
Iraqi Shiite men clean weapons as they get ready to defend their Sadr City district in case of an attack by Sunni extremists, on June 13, 2014 in Baghdad. Leading Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani called on Iraqis today to take up arms against the offensive spearheaded by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) marching on Baghdad, as thousands volunteered to bolster the the capital's defences. AFP PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
As Washington gets further dragged back into the mess in Iraq, opening up a new chapter of collaboration with Iran to defeat the Sunni Jihadists has once again become a political sticking point in Washington. Here are a few quick thoughts on the matter:
  • The fact that Iran has signaled openness to US strikes in Iraq shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom in Washington, Iran is either not seeking hegemony in the region and/or is incapable of materializing such a desire. The scaremongering about Iran's intents and capabilities are put in check by these recent events. Whether it wants it or not, Iran does not have the offensive military capabilities to replace the US as a military hegemon. Tehran have likely not missed the lesson of America's erroneous war in Iraq -- defeating one's enemies militarily is not the same thing as winning the war and winning the peace.

  • Republican criticism of President Barack Obama is less than honest. Whatever collaboration with Iran Obama may pursue, it will likely be far less than the very extensive political, military and intelligence collaboration George W. Bush had with Iran to defeat the Taliban in 2001. The difference is that Obama seems disinclined to betray the collaboration. Once Bush -- incorrectly -- deemed that the US no longer needed Iran, he put the country in the axis of evil. That effectively ended the lion share of the collaboration in Afghanistan, much to the detriment of the US. Obama seems more inclined to explore how successful collaboration in Iraq can move the two countries in a positive direction in order to advance regional and American security.
  • The crisis in Iraq adds urgency to reaching a nuclear deal with Iran by July 20 since the nuclear matter needs to be resolved before the two sides can fully explore regional areas of mutual interest.
  • Reality is that Iran and the US need each other. And both of them need to recognize the other's ability to play a stabilizing role. Few things have been as destabilizing for the region than the US-Iran enmity.
  • The real value of a functioning US-Iran dialogue on regional matters is that crises like this in Iraq can be prevented before they even erupt. Had the US and Iran collaborated rather than competed with each other in the region in the past few years, ISIS would likely never have managed to pose this challenge.