Friday, April 13, 2018

Opportunity and Peril

I don't see the defeat of ISIL in Iraq as the opportunity for Iran that Stratfor says it is.

The rise of ISIL following the withdrawal of American forces in 2011 was the opportunity for Iran. The collapse of the Iraqi security forces in the north gave Iran the chance to step into Iraq in a large way to build militias on the model of Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The defeat of ISIL is certainly an opportunity for Iran to expand their proxy presence.

But the defeat of ISIL is also a chance for a more secure Iraqi government to push Iran out of Iraq by leveraging a continued American presence and a new willingness of Sunni Arab states to support Iraq from a shared Arab opposition to Iran rather than the past post-Saddam stiff-arming of Shia Iraq over religious differences.

Efforts to reign in the Shia militias that have pro-Iran elements is one measure being taken.

But I don't get the idea that because enduring significant casualties with a major war involving 150,000 American troops is not sustainable means that a lesser effort is also not sustainable.

Seriously, an enduring American military presence in Iraq that doesn't involve a thousand KIA per year is not a high burden when you consider the strength America left in Japan, Germany, and Italy after World War II and in South Korea after the Korean War--commitments still in place--to solidify those wins.

Who even talks about our presence in Kosovo with allies since 1999 as a burden? (And the KFOR site seems to operate on 1999 dial-up bandwidth based on time of page loading.)

Also, saying Russia has no overriding interest in Syria isn't quite accurate. In many ways, intervention in Syria exploits Crimea as a power projection platform and justifies the Crimean Subliminal War of 2014.

That is, Russia has long had an interest in the eastern Mediterranean Sea to keep enemies away from southwest Russia. With naval and air bases in Syria supplied from a more robust Crimea base complex, Russia has a chance to push their naval and air buffer zone into the Mediterranean Sea.

Nor do I mark the start of Islamization of Turkey's government as the "coup" attempt in 2016. The purge of secular elements surely accelerated post-coup. But the coup was an opportunity to expand and speed ongoing Islamic revival in Turkey to bolster Erdogan's for-life tenure.

But Stratfor is good. So I don't dismiss their analysis. But while Iran still has opportunities in Iraq, I think the defeat of ISIL expands American opportunities more by giving Iraqis the security without ISIL to reject Iranian "help."

And yes, Syria is an opportunity for Iran. A far bigger opportunity than Iraq. But the cost of winning in Syria is far higher for Iran as is the risk of catastrophic failure if the Alawite minority tires of bleeding so much to back Assad now that ISIL is no longer the threat to march into the Alawite homeland and start beheading Alawites.

Further, our interests in Syria are limited and mean America has little interest in sacrificing a lot for purely Syria objectives. But that doesn't mean we have no interests--which is now not abandoning allies in Syria who helped us defeat ISIL and resisting Iranian influence in Syria.

I guess I'm just not as pessimistic about the ability of America to come out ahead of Iran in Iraq; or to resist Iran in Syria and increase the price Russia has to pay to stay in Syria enough to strain the ability of Russia to also be a threat to Ukraine or NATO in Europe.