Obama’s Best Hope Against ISIS Was Just Killed, So Let’s Make Friends with Iran
By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept
Thus far, U.S. hopes against ISIS have been pinned on the group’s most palatable enemies: The Iraqi Army, Kurdish Peshmerga, and more moderate Syrian rebels. While those groups have not been defeated, their position today is weaker than ever. As such, some cooperation with America’s ostensible enemies in the Iranian military will likely be necessary to any plan to defeat the Islamic State.
Obama’s non-Iranian options look particularly bleak after yesterday’s shocking assassination of one of Syria’s top anti-ISIS rebel commanders and dozens of his lieutenants. The commander, Hassan Abboud, was killed in an explosion during an underground meeting. So many members of his group, Ahrar al-Sham, were killed in the explosion that it’s now unclear whether it will continue to exist and provide a key counterweight to ISIS. Ahrar al-Sham was one of the best organized Syrian opposition factions aside from ISIS.
The loss of Abboud and his lieutenants only underlines the need for a reset of U.S. policy in the region. While American politicians have cast ISIS as a mortal threat to their country, the group’s primary conflict today is not with the United States – even if ISIS’s horrific beheadings of U.S. citizens served the group’s propaganda goals, and even if America’s catastrophic military adventurism facilitated [its creation and ascendance ].
No, ISIS’s real focus today is on expanding its territory by combating regional governments – Iraq and Syria at the moment – and by fending off rival militias. And it turns out this has done wonders for relations within the Middle East. For the first time in three years, the interests of Iran, Turkey, Syria, Qatar and Iraq are all aligned towards stifling the existential threat posed by the radical insurgency of ISIS. Even the Iranian and Saudi governments – normally bitter rivals – are seeking to set aside their differences to confront this rising danger.
Rather than reflexively satisfying an emotional need to “do something” in the face of atrocities committed by ISIS against American citizens, a policy of coalition-building across ideological lines could potentially eliminate the group and perhaps begin to heal sectarian divisions in the region. Obama’s speech tonight offers a prime opportunity to articulate a pragmatic, effective strategy. If ISIS is really the apocalyptic threat that U.S. politicians have made it out to be, such pragmatism is absolutely necessary. American policy on this issue has so far been both incomprehensible and counterproductive. But by bringing all major parties to one side against ISIS, something positive may be salvaged from it yet.
Steven Sotloff Was Sold To ISIS By ‘Moderate’ Rebels, Family Spokesman Tells CNN
By Ed Mazza, The Huffington Post
09/09/2014 12:10 am EDT
Steven Sotloff, the American journalist murdered by Islamic State militants last week, was sold to the terrorist organization by supposedly moderate rebels in Syria, a family spokesman told CNN on Monday night.
“For the first time, we can say Steven was sold at the border. Steven’s name was on a list that he had been responsible for the bombing of a hospital,” Barak Barfi said on “Anderson Cooper 360.” “This was false, activists spread his name around.”
“We believe that these so-called moderate rebels that people want our administration to support, one of them sold him probably for something between $25,000 and $50,000 to ISIS, and that was the reason he was captured,” Barfi told Cooper.