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Monday, August 3, 2020

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Al-Qaida/Iran battle looms ominously


The enemy of my enemy is my friend… unless they are already my enemy… even though they may still secretly be friends.

Confused? So are our leaders.

Recently, the leader of a group in Iraq affiliated with al-Qaida promised to strike Iranians in the country unless they ceased support for the Shiite-led Iraqi government within two months, Australia’s The Age reported.

"We give… Persians in general, and leaders of Iran in particular, two months to withdraw their support and presence in Iraq," Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the militant group Islamic State in Iraq said in a Web site post, the newspaper reported.

Al-Qaida, a predominantly Sunni group, accuses the Iranian government of supporting Shiite death squads in Iraq, saying they are responsible for systematic burning of Sunni mosques and assassinations of Sunni leaders.

For its part, Iran’s newly launched English-language Press TV announced that the Iranian government said it was ready to counter any threat by al-Qaida, with which there exists a long-standing rivalry.

Al-Baghdadi said his group will target Iranian businessmen and financial institutions that do business with the Iraqi government.

Al-Baghdadi expressed his enthusiasm for the potential conflict: "We have prepared four years for this war, and all that remains is to give the orders."

Sectarianism, it seems, has begun to bleed out of Iraq’s porous borders and into neighboring countries, but even though the U.S. and Iran are not on the best of terms, one would think another state in the region dedicated to perusing al-Qaida would only help the U.S.

The problem is, al-Qaida’s accusation about Iran’s support of Shiite militias is at least partially right. Though another state at war with al-Qaida would always help; another state at war with al-Qaida, in Iraq, will only serve to destabilize the country even further.

What’s more, were the U.S. to pull out in the near future, al-Qaida’s threats may well serve as a pretext for Iran placing its military inside Iraqi borders.

But the plot thickens. On July 6, The Financial Times reported that Western officials said Iran might be turning a blind eye to al-Qaida bases within its own borders.

The un-named officials said that an offshoot of the network may have sprung up in Iran after large segments of al-Qaida left Afghanistan and headed to Iraq at the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003.

The confusion of shady loyalties, double-crosses and enemies helping enemies boggles the mind. But while on its surface, Iranian action against elements of al-Qaida may be beneficial, the larger picture says otherwise.

Iran has an interest in Iraq’s future – and it doesn’t include sovereignty or democracy.

The schizophrenic attitude Iran seems to have toward the terrorist network shows there are a number of factions within the Iranian government on the issue, each with different view on how to deal with al-Qaida.

Iranian entrance into Iraq’s fray, even if only in words, will spell more chaos for a country with more than enough to go around.

Unfortunately aside from leaving and hoping for the best, an unlikely decision in the near future, there is little the U.S. can to do to stem sectarianism’s overflow that it doesn’t do already.

Casey Wooten, Opinion section editor, can be reached via [email protected]


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