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How the US did Iran a favour in the Middle East

How the US did Iran a favour in the Middle East
From Al Jazeera - November 14, 2017

Kurdish aspirations for independence in Iraq faced the obstinate resistance of both regional and international actors which favoured the territorial integrity of Iraq. The rationale for their stance wasthat the independence of Kurdistan would undermine the stability of Iraq.

Regardless of whether such predictions were right or wrong, Iraq's one and only stable region hasnow been dragged into the persistent and endemic instability of the rest of the country. The political impasse that arose from both the intra-Kurdish conflict and Baghdad's aggressive policy of controlling borders drove Iraqi Kurdistan swiftly into turbulence. The conditions in the Kurdish region are exacerbated by the newly imposed sanctionsand negotiations over the 2018 Iraqi budget, which deepen the ongoing economic crisis.

Persistence of the international and regional powers' "one-Iraq" policy has evidently resulted in the emergence of a "two-Iran" reality in the Middle East. The increasing Iranian influence over Baghdad throughout the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) concluded with Tehran's proxies dominating the country's "disputed areas" and Kurdistan proper. It is fair to claim that the future of Iraq is now in the hands of Iran today, rather than any other regional and/or international actor.

What probably surprised many was the decisive role which the head of Iran's Quds Force (a unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC), Qassem Suleimani, played in the Iraqi forces' intervention in Kirkuk just two days after US President Donald Trump imposed a new set of sanctions on the IRGC for "its support for terrorism".

It was also quite surreal to hear the US Secretary of State Rex Tillersondeclarethat the "Iranian militias in Iraq [need] to go home" a week afterIranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs) first entered and took control of Kirkuk while the United States stood by indifferent, if not supportive. Baghdad's response to Tillerson clarified the expanding borders of Iranian power in Iraq: Baghdad acknowledgedSuleimani's role as a "military advisor" to the PMUs anddeclaredthat "no country can interfere in Iraq's affairs".

In light of the US-backed developments in Saudi Arabia that directly target Iran and its allies in the region, it is all the more curious that Washington chose to abandon the Kurds and leave the Iraqi political space wide open to Tehran.

To the US, peace means territorial integrity

It is essential to remind everyone that the US has never succeeded in brokering a durable peace agreement for any of the conflicts in the Middle East - even if Presidents Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to that end.

The US has registered relative success in containing conflicts within given territories. Safeguarding the existing political borders in the Middle East has been the US'foremost priority, and the "stability" that peace agreements would bringhas been defined merely as a state of territorial integrity.

Washington's reaction towards the crisis that broke out in the Middle East due to the Arab Spring was therefore not an exception. Since the cross-border nature of the Arab Spring that motivated the masses was, above all else, a threat to existing political borders, the US and the international community as a whole tried to maintain "stability" once again by reinforcing the territorial integrity of each state and/or by continuing support for the dictatorial regimes.

In this regard, it is fair to claim that ISIL was designated a global threat not merely because of its brutal acts. The international coalition was formed once ISIL "abolished" the political borders between Syria and Iraq by establishing control over a contiguous stretch of territory.

Cornering the Kurds, boosting Iran

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