Above: USAF Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle during a close-air-support mission
Embattled Prime Minister Maliki
According to the Guardian:
A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, has said he will not stand down as a condition of US air strikes against Sunni militants who have made a lightning advance across the country.
Maliki's spokesman, Zuhair al-Nahar, said on Thursday that the west should immediately support the Iraqi government's military operation against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isis) rather than demand a change of government. He insisted that Maliki had "never used sectarian tactics".
"Our focus needs to be on urgent action – air support, logistic support, counter-intelligence support to defeat these terrorists who are posing a real danger to the stability of Iraq, to the whole region," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.COMMENTARY: This story broke early Thursday. Maliki appears severely undermined in his bid for a third term as Prime Minister of Iraq . That he would publicly make a statement through a spokesman linking his removal as a precondition for U.S. airstrikes is a strong indication that from the American perspective, the two actions are connected.
Selection of thw next Iraqi prime ministers acceptable to the United States:
Alarmed over the Sunni insurgent mayhem convulsing Iraq, the country’s political leaders are actively jockeying to replace Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, Iraqi officials said Thursday.
The political leaders have been encouraged by what they see as newfound American support for replacing Mr. Maliki with someone more acceptable to Iraq’s Sunnis and Kurds, as well as to the Shiite majority, the officials said.
Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures.COMMENTARY: The Iraq crisis renders an opportunity for the United States to render a political veto on the selection of the next prime minister of Iraq. That is to say, the ability of assisting the Iraq government through military action, such as close air support airstrikes, potentially provides the United States with the upper hand over Iran in the selection of Iraqi Prime Minister and formation of the next Iraqi government.
Obama to send 300 ‘military advisors’ to Iraq According to the Guardian:
Barack Obama announced on Thursday that a contingent up to 300 “military advisers” will be sent to help Iraq's beleaguered army repel the advance of Sunni insurgents, but insisted the US would not be dragged into another bloody war in the country.
The troops, drawn from US special operations forces, will assist the Iraqi military to develop and execute a counter-offensive against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis). Their mission is likely to spread to the selection of targets for any future air strikes, but Obama stopped short of accepting a plea from Baghdad to order US air power into the skies over Iraq immediately.COMMENTARY: It is the opinion of this writer that Iran is well aware it lacks the capacity to transfer a heavy military footprint onto Iraqi soil for the purpose of effecting a military intervention. Additionally, Iran's air forces-- the IRIAF and IRGC-AF-- are in no state to conduct sustained close air support operations as part of an airwar campaign. What the Iranians have to offer the Iraqis, militarilly, based on the Syrian conflict experiemce, is attrition and stalemate. Obviously the Iraqis will go with the United States military as the means of assisting their country out from its wholy unsatisfactory military and security situation.
The Iranian response to the unfolding dynamics of the 2014 Northern Iraq Offensive will depend to what extent the United States presses its now greatly enhanced position of afvantage within Iraqi politics, vis-a-vis Iran.
Should the United States seek a maximalist approach, in pushing through an Iraqi government unacceptable to Iran, there would likely be Iranian responses somewhat analogous to those encountered during the preceding American military occupation. That said, the temptation for American strategists must be great, given U.S. goals that are now seen as within reach, not the least of which is the detachment of the country from its perceived Iranian orbit. Benefits of such might include the closing of the Iranian logistical corridor into Syria through Iraqi land and airspace. That would certainly hinder Iranian efforts at militarily assisting the Syrian government, and might even imperil Iran's logistical link with south Lebanon. Another prize might be the denial or at least the hindering of IRGC-QF access to Iraq. Up to now, during this period of the 2014 Northern Iraq Offensive, the IRGC-QF appears to be operating freely and in the open.
The potential drawback for pursuing a maximalist approach? It would likely add to the complexity in what is already a very complicated situation in Iraq; what with the prospect of U.S. military intervention, the formation of the next Iraqi government, the ISIL terror threat, the brining together of Iraq's society, the rehabilitation of ISF forces and more. A somehwat less ambitious approach might actually accomplish more, if at the cost of diminishing tempting U.S. policy goals that come at the expense of Iran. If media reports are accurate, and that's a big if, the surprising inclusion of Ahmad Chalabi in both the American and Iran lists for the selection process of Iraq's next government might offer a hint that the more minimalist approach is being pursued during this period of the Iraq crisis. Then again it might not.