Sunday, June 22, 2014

'Senior US & Iranian Officials hold talks on stabilizing Iraq'

'The capture of the alleged ringleader of the 2012 attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi where four Americans, including the Ambassador to Libya, were killed has come as welcome relief to the Administration at a difficult time in its foreign policy. White House officials are hoping that will this take some of the sting out of the ongoing Congressional investigations of the episode. However, there is little sign to date that President Obama’s reputation for foreign policy decisiveness earned after the 2011 capture of Osama bin-Laden is recovering. This has been flagging following hesitations over Syria, Ukraine and, most recently, Iraq. What it will not do is solve the US dilemma over how to respond to the ISIS advances toward Baghdad. While there is much talk of airstrikes against ISIS targets, State Department and, especially, Pentagon officials are more conscious of the difficulties. These concerns lie behind the response to date being confined to the deployment of a modest number of military advisors. On the political side, officials note that ISIS enjoys significant support from the Sunni population, thus risking the perception that the US is taking anti-Sunni action. On the military side, the problem is that accurate targeting of airstrikes requires intelligence from on-the-ground spotters, thus increasing the risk to US personnel. This dilemma remains the subject of active debate. One of the more intriguing by-products of the crisis in Iraq are signs of a tentative opening to a broader relationship with Iran. Against the background of the P5+1 nuclear talks, senior State Department officials have held bilateral exchanges with their Iranian counterparts about what both sides perceive as a shared interest in stabilizing Iraq. The Administration is proceeding very cautiously on this front as opinion is divided about the wisdom of this approach. The Iraq crisis has diverted attention fromUkraine, but Administration officials are now hopeful that the exchanges between Presidents Putin and Poroshenko are laying the groundwork for a peaceful de-escalation of tensions, although reports ofnew Russian troop movements near the Ukraine border are leading to new sanctions.'

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