Above: Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, photo dated 13JUL14
A very interesting piece has been penned by Jay Solomon and Maria Abi-Habib, published 28OCT14 at Wall Street Journal. Highlights provided below, proceeded by commentary:
The Obama administration and Iran, engaged in direct nuclear negotiations and facing a common threat from Islamic State militants, have moved into an effective state of détente over the past year, according to senior U.S. and Arab officials.
[R]ecent months have ushered in a change as the two countries have grown into alignment on a spectrum of causes, chief among them promoting peaceful political transitions in Baghdad and Kabul and pursuing military operations against Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria, according to these officials.
The Obama administration also has markedly softened its confrontational stance toward Iran’s most important nonstate allies, the Palestinian militant group Hamas and the Lebanese militant and political organization, Hezbollah. American diplomats, including Secretary of State John Kerry , negotiated with Hamas leaders through Turkish and Qatari intermediaries during cease-fire talks in July that were aimed at ending the Palestinian group’s rocket attacks on Israel, according to senior U.S. officials.
U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly tipped off Lebanese law-enforcement bodies close to Hezbollah about threats posed to Beirut’s government by Sunni extremist groups, including al Qaeda and its affiliate Nusra Front in Syria, Lebanese and U.S. officials said.
“This shows that although we see Turkey and Arab states as our closest allies, our interests and policies are converging with Iran’s,” said Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a former Obama administration official. “This is a " at this moment, more than a conscious U.S. policy.”
[T]hese officials said the intensive negotiations the U.S. has pursued with Iran since last year on the nuclear issue could help stabilize the Mideast and have improved understanding.
“The world is clearly better off now than it would have been if the leaders on both sides had ignored this opening,” Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator with Iran, said last week.
Iranian officials, including President Hasan Rouhani, have said there could be more cooperation with the U.S. in the war on Islamic State, but only if a nuclear accord is reached.
Since the U.S. resumed military operations inside Iraq in August, however, the Revolutionary Guard, or IRGC, has explicitly ordered its local proxies not to target American military personnel conducting and coordinating attacks against Islamic State from bases around Baghdad and Iraq’s Ku
Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Guard’s overseas operations known as the Qods Force, specifically instructed Iraqi Shiite militias long at war with the U.S., such as the Mahdi Army and Kata’ib Hezbollah, that American efforts to weaken Islamic State were in the long-term interests of Tehran and its allies, said these officials.
“It has gone quiet because these guys have been told by the IRGC not to attack,” said a U.S. intelligence officer who tracks Gen. Soleimani. “The Iraqi Shiite groups went to Soleimani and said they wanted to go after the American embassy and target Americans. Soleimani said: ‘No, No, No. Unless they get into your areas of control, don’t attack.’”
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is planning to play down and avoid publicity for the annual minesweeping exercise being organized by U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet. In past years, the exercise has been used to highlight unified opposition to Iranian activities in the Persian Gulf, according to a U.S. official.
Some officials say de-emphasizing deterrence against Iran could be destabilizing, signaling to the Revolutionary Guard that the U.S. isn't going to take steps to counter their measures.
However, the U.S. now has gone beyond the use of signals. American officials said the Obama administration has passed messages to Tehran by using the offices of Iraq’s new Shiite prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, as well as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of Shiite Islam’s most senior clerics.
The U.S. has also made it clear to Tehran that its stepped-up military strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria won’t be turned on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to U.S. officials.
Mr. Assad is Iran’s closest Arab ally. And the Revolutionary Guard and Gen. Soleimani have mobilized Iranian military personnel and Lebanese and Iraqi Shiite militiamen to fight inside Syria in support of the Damascus regime. Any U.S. strikes on Mr. Assad’s security forces could end up hitting Iranian or Hezbollah soldiers and military advisers, sparking a broader conflict, U.S. and Arab officials said.
“They [the U.S.] want to focus on ISIL and they are worried about antagonizing the Iranians, which they say may cause them to react or the Shiite militias in Iraq to react against our embassy and interests in Iraq and derail the [nuclear] talks,” said a senior U.S. defense official working on Iraq. “They are articulating in high-level interagency meetings that they don’t want to do anything that’s interpreted by the Iranians as threatening to the regime.”
The détente that has taken hold is filtering into other theaters of traditional American-Iranian conflict, said U.S. and Arab officials.
Washington for years has sought to weaken Hezbollah’s political and military power in Lebanon through sanctions and the backing of rival political parties in Beirut. But the threat posed by Islamic State, Nusra Front and other Sunni extremist groups to Lebanon has changed the security dynamics there, said U.S. and Arab officials.COMMENTARY: If this reporting is accurate, this represents a sound position for U.S. to adopt in the war against ISIL. Indeed, Vali Nasr's term of "geostrategic reality" would provide an apt description of this move toward an effective state of détente between the U.S. and Iran.
There is further evidence of this geostrategic reality taking effect in the war against ISIL in Syria. In response to a 25OCT14 published interview question posed by Asharq al-Awsat media, Gen John Allen, USMC (Ret.) had this to say:
What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize. There is not going to be a military solution here [in Syria]. We have to create so much credibility within the moderate Syrian opposition at a political level . . . that they earn their spot at the table when the time comes for the political solution. Now, there could be FSA elements that ultimately clash with the regime, that may well be the case, as they seek to defend themselves and those areas that they dominate and as they seek to defend their families and their ways of life . . . it could be an outcome. But the intent is not to create a field force to liberate Damascus—that is not the intent. The intent is that in the political outcome, they [the moderate Syrian opposition] must be a prominent—perhaps the preeminent voice—at the table to ultimately contribute to the political outcome that we seek.Gen John Allen is tasked as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL. What's striking by his candid response is how relatively close it approaches the official Iranian position on Syria. For years, the Iranians have been of the position that there is no military solution to the Syrian conflict, and that the opposition engage the Syrian Arab Republic in a political solution.
Iranian media has recently been publishing a stream of photos portraying IRGC-QF Commander Maj. Gen. Soleimani inside Iraq among Shia militia forces, most recently engaged in the successful operation to retake Jurf al-Sakhar.
Tabnak portraying (left to right) Hadi al-Ameri, head of Badr Organization; Sheikh Adnan Shahmani, Iraqi MP and Shia militia leader; Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, IRGC-QF Commander; Seyyed Mohammad Tabatabai, Deputy Commander of AAH.
Iranian media identifies Iraqi "social media"sources in referring to Maj. Gen. Soleimaini as "general who liberated Amirli.”
There has been quite a bit of media and pundit speculation as to the reason for all the recent publicity of Soleimani in Iranian media. This writer is of the opinion that the Iranians are keen to portray their Iran-led component of the war against ISIL, particularly in Iraq where it is readily conceded the IRGC-QF possesses freedom of action. In this theater of war against ISIL, they're also keen to portray the IRGC and allied Shia militia's role in the defense of Baghdad, as well as the reataking of Amerli and now Jurf al-Sakhar. Evidence to support this writer's opinion on Iranian intention can be seen by comments made earlier this week by Iranian MP Habib Aghajeri, where he stated:
“What is striking about this success [at Jurf al-Sakhar] is it again shows the crucial role of community groups led by Iraqi forces and by Commander Soleimani. Western media sources and officials all acknowledge Maj. Gen. Soleimani’s power and influence in the region.”The Iran-led coalition effort against ISIL to retake Jurf al-Sakhar was named Operation Ashura, of which according to Iranian media AAH played a prominent part.