June 23, 2014 | Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Stay Engaged In Iraq

Mark Dubowitz is executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C.-based organization focusing on foreign policy and national security. He spoke to the Trib regarding the possible pitfalls of the United States teaming with Iran to stem the ongoing chaos in Iraq.

Q: Do you agree that a strategic alliance with Iran potentially could be extremely problematic for the U.S.?

A: Absolutely, I would agree. The United States and Iran do not share compatible interests in Iraq.

We are looking for a stable, pluralistic Iraq that has room for Sunnis and Shiites and Kurds. The Iranians are looking for a militant, Shiite-run state that they can control the way they've controlled Lebanon and the way they are seeking to control Syria. This is completely at odds to U.S. national interests.

Q: How does this potential partnership reflect on the Obama administration's Middle East policy?

A: You know, it's a sign that your Middle East policy is up in flames when you are considering partnering with an Iranian regime that actually created the very violence in Syria and Iraq that they now are pretending to be sort of a bulwark against.

I find it just amazing that we would actually consider partnering with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and General Qasem Soleimani, two men who have American blood on their hands. They are responsible for the death of hundreds of our servicemen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and they've really fueled the sectarian war both in Syria and Iraq.

Q: Are you surprised that an alliance is even being considered after the State Department released a report a few months ago that indicated Iran was aiding the insurgents in Iraq?

A: Yes. The report once again named Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. (It outlined) that Iran is supporting Iraqi insurgents, is working with Assad, is supporting Hezbollah and is facilitating the activities of al-Qaida.

That a nation which is fanning the flames of sectarian bloodshed in the Middle East is now somehow positioning itself as a force of stability is just incomprehensible.

Q: What do you think ultimately lies in store for Iraq?

A: I think you are basically going to see Iraq as a Shiite-run state, highly militarized, more extremist and highly dependent on Iran. You will see massive Iranian influence on this Shiite Iraq, the Kurds increasingly breaking away to form their own independent entity and this sort of emergence of this radical Sunni Islamic state controlled by ISIS and carved out of Syria and Iraq.

Where I think we are heading is very, very dangerous.

Q: What would you say to people who believe this latest conundrum provides further evidence that the U.S. should just disengage from the Middle East?

A: The lesson Americans may draw from this is that we should get out of the Middle East, but unfortunately we don't have the luxury of that choice. It's too strategic an area.

Without U.S. leadership, these problems are going to metastasize and my fear is we may face another 9/11 or worse.

So we have no choice but to stay engaged — despite how frustrating and how painful that engagement has been.