Kerry: We may welcome Iraq’s new Iranian overlords, or something; Update: White House reverses course

posted at 12:01 pm on June 16, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

The US and Iran could team up to legitimize an Iranian military presence in Iraq, Secretary of State John Kerry told Katie Couric earlier today.  That’s a far cry from American policy over the past four decades, and a blow to US allies in the region, who have to be wondering just what Washington is thinking. Oliver Knox reports from the Couric interview, in which Kerry said the Obama administration would not rule anything out to prevent Iraq from being ripped apart:

“This is a challenge to the stability of the region. It is obviously an existential challenge to Iraq itself. This is a terrorist group,” Kerry told Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric in an exclusive interview.

Prodded on whether the United States would consider cooperating militarily with Iran, Kerry replied: “Let’s see what Iran might or might not be willing to do before we start making any pronouncements.”

But “I think we are open to any constructive process here that could minimize the violence, hold Iraq together, the integrity of the country and eliminate the presence of outside terrorist forces that are ripping it apart,” the top U.S. diplomat told Couric.

“I wouldn’t rule out anything that would be constructive to providing real stability, a respect for the (Iraqi) constitution, a respect for the election process, and a respect for the Iraqi people to form a government that represents all of the interests of Iraq — not one sectarian group over another,” he said. …

Kerry said Obama was giving “a very thorough vetting of every option that is available,” including drone strikes, and underlined that “we are deeply committed to the integrity of Iraq as a country.”

Note that “wouldn’t rule anything out” seems to exclude the introduction of American troops, which Obama ruled out on Friday (and which couldn’t arrive in time to save Baghdad on its own anyway). Nor are manned air attacks an option either, according to multiple reports over the last few days, so there actually seems to be quite a bit that’s being “ruled out” when it comes to a response to the ISIS penetration after all.

ABC notes that Iran is also open to legitimizing a military presence in Iraq, to the great shock of no one, and that the US isn’t even going to make it a trading point in nuclear negotiations:

Iran’s  Iranian President Hassan said over the weekend that Iran is willing to help Iraq if asked and that is also open to cooperating with the U.S. on Iraq.

“Whenever the United States makes a move on the ISIS, then we can think about cooperation with them in Iraq,” Rouhani said over the weekend. …

A senior administration official told reporters earlier today that Iraq will not factor into nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna this week, but that Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns could discuss a political solution in Iraq with his Iranian counterparts on the sidelines of those talks.

It’s a strange interview anyway, offered up this morning on Yahoo News. It starts off with a lengthy intro that practically bathes Kerry in positive spin, lamenting the “smear campaign” of the Swift Boat veterans and providing Kerry’s medal list without acknowledging what the criticisms of Kerry actually involved — his own smear campaign in the early 1970s against his fellow Vietnam veterans, plus some long-held disputes about his service record. It’s practically a campaign introduction without a single reference to anything of substance facing Kerry in his current job until the interview actually gets underway.

Even then, Kerry insists that the issue in Iraq isn’t entirely about terrorism, but also resentment because the balance of power swung in the Shi’ites’ favor at the expense of the Sunnis after the US established a democratic republic in the post-Saddam Hussein period. Of course, that happened because Shi’ites are the majority in Iraq, while the Sunnis are a small minority that only held power because of Hussein’s dictatorship. What else did anyone expect from a majority Shi’ite nation? Besides, while Nouri al-Maliki’s political incompetence is undeniably an issue, it’s hardly the acute issue at the moment.

And if the Obama administration foresaw that problem — which was already manifestly evident by 2009 — why didn’t they negotiate a substantial residual force to give the US leverage with Maliki, as well as give some measure of confidence to our Sunni tribal allies from the surge?

In fact, the acute issue for Kerry and this interview isn’t Iraq, or terrorism, or Iran either. It’s, um, the “Our Ocean” conference at the State Department, which Kerry calls “a very, very important conference”:

“If we do nothing, and it turns out that the critics and the naysayers and the members of the Flat Earth Society, if it turns out that they’re wrong, then we are risking nothing less than the future of the entire planet,” Kerry said.

Kerry’s push on oceans, (and climate change generally) will test the Obama administration’s ability to set the agenda at a time when headline-grabbing crises – Iraq, Ukraine, Nigeria -dominate the discussion of world affairs.

It certainly provides a clear view of the administration’s priorities, and what it views as an acute crisis.

Update: Fred Kagan explains why allying with Iran is exactly the wrong strategy:

That alternative is to act boldly and decisively to help stop the advance of the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)—without empowering Iran. This would mean pursuing a strategy in Iraq (and in Syria) that works to empower moderate Sunni and Shi’a without taking sectarian sides. This would mean aiming at the expulsion of foreign fighters, both al Qaeda terrorists and Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah regular and special forces, from Iraq.

This would require a willingness to send American forces back to Iraq. It would mean not merely conducting U.S. air strikes, but also accompanying those strikes with special operators, and perhaps regular U.S. military units, on the ground. This is the only chance we have to persuade Iraq’s Sunni Arabs that they have an alternative to joining up with al Qaeda or being at the mercy of government-backed and Iranian-backed death squads, and that we have not thrown in with the Iranians. It is also the only way to regain influence with the Iraqi government and to stabilize the Iraqi Security Forces on terms that would allow us to demand the demobilization of Shi’a militias and to move to limit Iranian influence and to create bargaining chips with Iran to insist on the withdrawal of their forces if and when the situation stabilizes.

This path won’t be easy, but the alternatives are much worse. Doing nothing means we will face a full-scale sectarian war—Syria on steroids—with millions of refugees and tens or hundreds of thousands more dead, along with a massive expansion of Iranian control into southern Iraq and an al Qaeda safe haven stretching from the Tigris to the middle of Syria.

Throwing our weight behind Iran in the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq, as some are suggesting, would make things even worse. Conducting U.S. airstrikes without deploying American special operators or other ground forces would in effect make the U.S. Iran’s air force. Such an approach would be extremely shortsighted. The al Qaeda threat in Iraq is great, and the U.S. must take action against it. But backing the Iranians means backing the Shi’a militias that have been the principal drivers of sectarian warfare, to say nothing of turning our backs on the moderates on both sides who are suffering the most. Allowing Iran to in effect extend its border several hundred kilometers to the west with actual troop deployments would be a strategic disaster. In addition, the U.S. would be perceived as becoming the ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran against all of the forces of the Arab and Sunni world, conceding Syria to the Iranian-backed Bashir al-Assad, and accepting the emergence of an Iranian hegemony soon to be backed by nuclear weapons. And at the end of the day, Iran is not going to be able to take over the Sunni areas of Iraq—so we would end up both strengthening Iran and not defeating ISIS.

Update: Oh, and there’s this too:

Not just cooperation, but a de facto military alliance.

Update 2:43 pm ET: The White House just reversed course on Kerry:

Does this White House bother to consult with its Secretary of State, or vice versa?


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This time he is right.

cozmo on June 16, 2014 at 12:36 PM

I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but whenever anyone from this administration makes a proclamation, chances increase that the exact opposite will happen.

‘The United States will never lose its AAA credit rating.’

- Timothy Geithner

Resist We Much on June 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:07 PM

;-)

Newtie and the Beauty on June 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM

When was the last time Iran invaded a country?

coolrepublica on June 16, 2014 at 12:39 PM

2011. The price of their “alliance” with the U.S. this time will be: Iran overruns the Kurds, the only group in the region that has been anything close to a reliable ally of the U.S. Idiot.

de rigueur on June 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Valerie Jarrett is Iranian.

I’m sure this is all just a coincidence.

pain train on June 16, 2014 at 12:53 PM

IIRC aren’t Iranians mostly shi’ite and obama sunni? Hiw will they square that circle?

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM

And let’s not forget, this entire circus of atrocities now unfolding in Iraq was predicted SPOT ON back in 2007.

Meople on June 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM

Not just cooperation, but a de facto military alliance.

I’m not so sure that Obama isn’t grateful for the crisis as an opportunity to reverse longstanding foreign policy and restore full diplomatic relations with Iran.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 16, 2014 at 1:14 PM

I’ve been wondering about “the brotherhood”:

The Muslim Brotherhood issued the following statement regarding the fast ongoing developments in Iraq:

The Muslim Brotherhood is deeply concerned about and saddened by the latest violent developments in Iraq and the tragic strife in which Iraqi blood is shed, the unity of the homeland is crushed and ties and relations are severed. The Brotherhood condemns all manifestations of this division and in-fighting. The group wishes to stress the following points and principles:

http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=31676

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:17 PM

The enemies of America are the friends of this administration…who knew? Right Val?

d1carter on June 16, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Julie ‏@MsIntervention 30m

“I fear there will be a day when people will say: ‘There were once #Christians in #Iraq.’ http://bigstory.ap.org/article/iraqi-christians-flee-homes-amid-militant-push

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:19 PM

The hits just keep coming.

Let them butcher themselves. What other recourse do we have?

Deckard BR on June 16, 2014 at 12:25 PM

Sometimes you find yourself thinking, “If only they could both lose….”

But someone’s going to win, and be stronger for having eliminated or conquered their competition. To suggest we have no interest in making sure the worst side loses is not exactly dealing with the real world.

No matter which side wins in Iraq, we’re probably not going to like them all that much. Maliki’s government had lots of flaws, and they caused a lot of their own problems. So coming in swinging to support him is not something anyone will be all that happy about.

But the alternative is far worse.

In foreign policy, just like in politics, sometimes you just have to pick the least bad side, and work with it.

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 16, 2014 at 1:25 PM

ISIL orders destruction of all churches in Mosul

http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/isil-instructs-to-destroy-churches-in-mosul/

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:33 PM

No boots:

US Navy ship with 550 Marines on board entering Gulf

http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/us-navy-ship-with-0-marines-on-board-entering-gulf/

(Consider the source of these two latest comments.)

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Flawlessness

Bmore on June 16, 2014 at 1:41 PM

No boots:

US Navy ship with 550 Marines on board entering Gulf

http://www.iraqinews.com/iraq-war/us-navy-ship-with-0-marines-on-board-entering-gulf/

(Consider the source of these two latest comments.)

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:34 PM

Ah yes, I’m sure that’s like the if you like your plan you can keep your plan, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor type thing.

If anyone still believes a word that comes out of Talibama’s mouth, they are a FOOL.

Meople on June 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM

I’ve been wondering about “the brotherhood”:

The Muslim Brotherhood issued the following statement regarding the fast ongoing developments in Iraq:

The Muslim Brotherhood is deeply concerned about and saddened by the latest violent developments in Iraq and the tragic strife in which Iraqi blood is shed, the unity of the homeland is crushed and ties and relations are severed. The Brotherhood condemns all manifestations of this division and in-fighting. The group wishes to stress the following points and principles:

http://www.ikhwanweb.com/article.php?id=31676

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:17 PM

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6jKE6YIxmc

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:44 PM

When was the last time Iran invaded a country?

coolrepublica on June 16, 2014 at 12:39 PM

I don’t know but Mexico is invading the U.S. right now and plenty of Americans are helping.

VorDaj on June 16, 2014 at 1:01 PM

How many of those poor “brown children” are from the Middle East… and as we know thanks to Brietbart, they sure look like men, not children.

Who will stop Obama?

Key West Reader on June 16, 2014 at 1:52 PM

This is insane! Iran is responsible for thousands of injuries and deaths from their IEDS in Iraq and Afghanistan. If I was a current or former soldier from either of those two wars it would be irate! Heck I’m irate now. Our leaders are very dangerous people.

sadsushi on June 16, 2014 at 1:52 PM

Spain Arrests Eight In Raid Against ISIS Jihadist Cell Led By Former Gitmo Detainee…

Resist We Much on June 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM

Aren’t the Spaniards afraid they will get a train sation blown up or something?

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Who will stop Obama?

Key West Reader on June 16, 2014 at 1:52 PM

No one.

He’s completely given away, everything everyone fought and died for in Iraq, from 2002 to 2014. Twelve years of blood, sweat, tears, lives and multiple TRILLIONS of taxpayer dollars, WASTED. FOR NOTHING.

Obama, by not signing the status of force agreement, completely surrendered and wasted each and everyone one of those nearly 4500 American Soldiers lives. All of the nearly injuries and maiming of the nearly 68,000 American soldiers, was for NOTHING. Obama completely pissed it away in a matter or weeks.

Meople on June 16, 2014 at 2:01 PM

Spain Arrests Eight In Raid Against ISIS Jihadist Cell Led By Former Gitmo Detainee…

Resist We Much on June 16, 2014 at 1:43 PM

LOL

Midas on June 16, 2014 at 2:19 PM

Attacking Isis would be attacking the forces/creation of Americas friends on planet Saudi. Isis is a broad coalition of nations, troops from America,Canada, Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Australia, most of the western world are represented, Dearborn is awash in green and black ribbons for the heroes with hopes of their safe return. America is on the wrong side of history, even the Arab League is onside with ISIS.

BL@KBIRD on June 16, 2014 at 2:22 PM

Will Kerry testify as truthfully about the atrocities that will be committed by Iranian terrorists as passionately as he lied about the made up atrocities of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam?

JoshuaH on June 16, 2014 at 2:26 PM

We must intervene in Iraq even if we are The Allatollah’s Air Force. 4500 Americans have died already in Iraq , does it matter if 500 or 1000 die?

Bill Kristol is right, we need boots on the ground for the Mullahs and for the love of the Shiites.

MitchFlorida on June 16, 2014 at 2:38 PM

The daily Klown Show continues apace.

What a disaster. Make it stop!

Key West Reader on June 16, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Update 2:43 pm ET: The White House just reversed course on Kerry

Did they give him a hat…?

d1carter on June 16, 2014 at 2:48 PM

White House says U.S. won’t pursue coordinated military action with Iran in Iraq. http://wsj.com

WH, for now, will not ask the devil to save god.

Talking horse most disappointed…

Schadenfreude on June 16, 2014 at 2:48 PM

JOKE OF THE DAY..

In a small town in Iraq, an Iranian commander had his troops lay a mortar barrage on a row of houses suspected of holding ISIS snipers. When the dust cleared, there was nothing left but rubble.

An embedded MSNBC reporter (remember this is a joke) was shocked and incredulous. She asked, “Aren’t you worried at all about collateral damage?”

The commander smiled, and motioned with his hand. “This is Iraq,” he said. “Here, there is no such thing as collateral damage.”

Marcola on June 16, 2014 at 2:48 PM

Priorities, from obama and Kerry

Over the weekend, obama preached “climate change” as if the climate doesn’t change every second.

Now this

Schadenfreude on June 16, 2014 at 2:50 PM

So glad we have top men on this. Top. Men.

HumpBot Salvation on June 16, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Update: White House reverses course

That’s a “pivot,” right?

Newtie and the Beauty on June 16, 2014 at 2:52 PM

IIRC aren’t Iranians mostly shi’ite and obama sunni? Hiw will they square that circle?

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 1:13 PM

His middle name is “Hussein”. “Hussein” is a much more popular name among Shia muslims than Sunni muslims.

mnjg on June 16, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Will Kerry testify as truthfully about the atrocities that will be committed by Iranian terrorists as passionately as he lied about the made up atrocities of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam?

JoshuaH on June 16, 2014 at 2:26 PM

Heh. Good point!

davidk on June 16, 2014 at 2:53 PM

Isn’t Iran totally trying to obliterate US influence in the middle east? aren’t we trying to limit Iran’s influence in the middle east? why in god’s name would we cooperate with them and increase their stature in the region, while showing how impotent we are that we are even considering their help? Does kerry even think before he opens his trap? He and Biden must be brothers of different mothers. We sure have top men in charge.

warmairfan on June 16, 2014 at 2:57 PM

Holy smokes these guys are terrible. Absolutely terrible at everything except elections, and in Kerry’s case, he sucks at that too.

forest on June 16, 2014 at 3:03 PM

Watching the Obama foreign policy flaps is like watching the Clown Car at the circus.

MTF on June 16, 2014 at 3:05 PM

Update 2:43 pm ET: The White House just reversed course on Kerry:

I sure hope they do cooperate with the “Iraqi army” though, and provide air power to the “Iraqi Army” so they can push back against ISIS. I will take that too.

So how long Mr. President can we expect airstrikes to help out the “Iraqi Army” on the ground? Time is ticking.

coolrepublica on June 16, 2014 at 3:08 PM

PM update

Right hand meet left hand

cmsinaz on June 16, 2014 at 3:14 PM

The White House just reversed course on Kerry

Presidential Mulligan?

socalcon on June 16, 2014 at 3:24 PM

Update: White House reverses course

That’s a “pivot,” right?

Newtie and the Beauty on June 16, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Um, more like “evolving” their position.

socalcon on June 16, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Update: White House reverses course

That’s a “pivot,” right?

Newtie and the Beauty on June 16, 2014 at 2:52 PM

Um, more like “evolving” their position.

socalcon on June 16, 2014 at 3:27 PM

Technically I think it’s a pivolvement. From the verb pivolution.

Although, with Kerry, one may also say it’s about face.

de rigueur on June 16, 2014 at 3:43 PM

The White House just reversed course on Kerry

The White House: “Kerry? Don’t listen to him – he’s an idiot.”

Ward Cleaver on June 16, 2014 at 3:56 PM

So how long Mr. President can we expect airstrikes to help out the “Iraqi Army” on the ground? Time is ticking.

coolrepublica on June 16, 2014 at 3:08 PM

Sorry, obama has a 4:00 tee time and he still has to solve the union strike in Philadelphia and then there is the pressing concern of a soccer player coming out as gay. And then it is seasonably warm in the NE so he might need to make a speech about climate change and how republicans think the moon is made of cheese. Once he takes care of those issues of utmost importance he might pivot towards Iraq.

HumpBot Salvation on June 16, 2014 at 3:57 PM

Valerie Jarrett is Iranian.

pain train on June 16, 2014 at 12:53 PM

No, she is not. She was born in Iran to American parents. Not that it matters much.

rlwo2008 on June 16, 2014 at 3:59 PM

Senior DHS Official: Why, Yes, The Caliphate Is Returning And We Should Treat It Like A Muslim Version Of The EU…Or Something.

Resist We Much on June 16, 2014 at 3:45 PM

Notice the name of the senior DHS official. We now have Muslims in the Department of Homeland Security cheering on the enemy. The (radical) Islamization of our government occurred right under our eyes.

rlwo2008 on June 16, 2014 at 4:03 PM

When the peons are laughing at the regime, what can they do but start shooting a few, just to make a point?

ExpressoBold on June 16, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Obama is making Jimmah Carter look like a strategic, military genius! Remember when Carter allowed our embassy staff in Teheran to be taken hostage, and then gave the Panama Canal to China?

tomshup on June 16, 2014 at 4:08 PM

So the White House Swift Boated Kerry?

Odie1941 on June 16, 2014 at 4:08 PM

If this were a Marx Brothers comedy, it still wouldn’t be funny. But, in this case, a nation is burning while the President peruses his options over Beluga on toast. To co-opt a film image, perhaps a few beheaded soldiers in the royal bed would get his attention.

Oh, right, he and Kerry the Clueless will solve the Middle East with another global warming speech. That should work. Perhaps a speech about the Easter Bunny would be in order, just to be certain.

IndieDogg on June 16, 2014 at 4:30 PM

I love the update. Obama doesn’t care who he makes look incompetent since he knows the media will never blame him.

Cindy Munford on June 16, 2014 at 4:38 PM

If this were a Marx Brothers comedy, it still wouldn’t be funny. But, in this case, a nation is burning while the President peruses his options over Beluga on toast. To co-opt a film image, perhaps a few beheaded soldiers in the royal bed would get his attention.

Oh, right, he and Kerry the Clueless will solve the Middle East with another global warming speech. That should work. Perhaps a speech about the Easter Bunny would be in order, just to be certain.

IndieDogg on June 16, 2014 at 4:30 PM

It does seem remarkably like the battle scenes in “Duck Soup.”

There Goes the Neighborhood on June 16, 2014 at 5:15 PM

I’m so tired of Obama, the progressive Disasterocracy and all the BS spin on every single issue.

MTF on June 16, 2014 at 5:29 PM

Well then, so how do you say “Reset” in Farsi?

dissent555 on June 16, 2014 at 6:00 PM

So the White House Swift Boated Kerry?

Odie1941 on June 16, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Thread winner.

bgibbs1000 on June 16, 2014 at 6:47 PM

Obama and Kerry are traitors, liars and unmitigated douchebags.

justltl on June 16, 2014 at 6:48 PM

Whoever referred to Kerry as Clutch Cargo in his delivery, I have to tip my hat. I can’t erase that perfect image.

onlineanalyst on June 16, 2014 at 8:49 PM

Amateur hour administration.

Bmore on June 16, 2014 at 9:08 PM

Allowing Iran to in effect extend its border several hundred kilometers to the west with actual troop deployments would be a strategic disaster. In addition, the U.S. would be perceived as becoming the ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran against all of the forces of the Arab and Sunni world, conceding Syria to the Iranian-backed Bashir al-Assad, and accepting the emergence of an Iranian hegemony soon to be backed by nuclear weapons.

And at the end of the day, Iran is not going to be able to take over the Sunni areas of Iraq—so we would end up both strengthening Iran and not defeating ISIS.

I’m pretty sure the above-noted scenario been the unspoken but preferred and hoped-for outcome for Obama and his Iranian-born consigliere Valerie Jarrett (raised outside of Iran but maintains many friends in the mullahocracy) since January 2009, so…yeah.

Sacramento on June 16, 2014 at 9:13 PM

What makes Kerry think that Iran is interested in a “constructive process” for Iraq? Before Kuwait, weren’t they firing rockets at each other? And what would that do to Israel and western influence there?

What a nightmare of coordinated incompetence these people are!

virgo on June 17, 2014 at 1:38 AM

When was the last time Iran invaded a country?

coolrepublica on June 16, 2014 at 12:39 PM

With actual military forces they have not invaded others. (One can quibble with the Iran-Iraq war, which had a lot of back and forth in terms of which country’s forces were in the other’s area.) Through funding and supporting terrorist organizations–like Hezbollah–and supplying weapons to the militias they supported in Iraq, they have been responsible for much of the misery in the Middle East.

Kevin K. on June 17, 2014 at 7:38 AM

“If we do nothing, and it turns out that the critics and the naysayers and the members of the Flat Earth Society, if it turns out that they’re wrong, then we are risking nothing less than the future of the entire planet,” Kerry said.

Is it too much to expect the Secretary of State for the United States of America to be able to speak understandable English? This isn’t a sentence, it’s a loose collection of clauses sinking in a morass of confusion.

I recommend Kerry read Hemingway to learn the use of short sentences.

Kevin K. on June 17, 2014 at 8:12 AM

Our Administration will accept Iranian control over Iraq but will not have anything to do with the outcomes.

MSGTAS on June 18, 2014 at 9:32 AM

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