Secretary of State John Kerry has been engaged in negotiations with Iran for the past eighteen months–along with China, France, Germany, Russia and UK–regarding an agreement to prevent the introduction of nuclear weapons into the Middle East. The various shenanigans of mostly Republicans in Congress, in collusion with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, certainly haven’t made that task any easier. A preliminary version of the agreement is targeted for signing this coming Tuesday; however, the various military activities in the Region must definitely be a distraction.
Opposition groups of various stripes have been battling President Bashar Assad’s Syrian Army for the past four years, with a result of some 200,000 Syrians killed, mostly civilians. Since this past June, we have also seen the birth of the IS, in both Syria and Iraq. Since that time, a US-led coalition has been providing air strikes in support of Kurdish forces defending their homeland in northern Syria; however, it has not targeted Assad’s forces since we are not at war with Syria. Iran, however, has been providing Syria with weapons and Hezbollah troop support.
The US is also leading a coalition of nations–including NATO allies–in providing air cover to the Kurdish Peshmerga as well as Sunni elements of the Iraqi Army against IS in northern Iraq. It will continue to do so when those two ground forces try to consolidate their control of Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, sometime in the next month or two.
Somewhat to the south of Mosul, but still in the mostly Sunni northern part of Iraq, an Iranian general has been leading a 30,000 strong force of Shia’s from a combination of the Iraqi Army and independent militias, and it is reinforced by Iran’s elite “CUDS” special operations troops. The US had not been providing air cover…well, not until this past Wednesday. Most recently, 10,000 of the Shia militia have disengaged from combat, claiming that the US air support was not required. Was that tantrum instigated by Iran?
Further to the south in Yemen, the Iranian-backed Shia Houthis have taken control of Sana’a, the capital, and President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has fled. Another rebel group, loyal to former President Abdullah Saleh is opposing the Houthis, trying to place Saleh back in power. Saudi Arabia began leading a coalition of other regional Sunni countries in providing air strikes against both the Houthis and the rebels loyal to Saleh. It’s goal is to return Hadi to power.
And, just to add to all the commotion, Egypt claims that Saudi Arabia and it are massing a Regional Arab Coalition to begin a ground invasion of Yemen any day now. The US, which evacuated its special ops troops this past week; however, has been providing advice and, no doubt, intelligence to the coalition, but it does not expect to offer military support.
So, the US is providing air support to an Iranian-led Iraqi force that is engaged in re-taking control of Tikrit. At the same time, we are providing behind-the-scenes support to a regional force that has begun the air “preparation” of a potential invasion of Yemen, against the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels. That means that the US is both allied with and providing support against Iran, all the while, Secretary John Kerry, and the other five countries, are down to the last three days of negotiations with Iran to forestall it from having nuclear weapons. Talk about a three-ring circus!