The views expressed in this commentary piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of SyriacPress.
By Johannes de Jong
So, after a lot of noise and one dead war criminal, we end up in the same situation as a week ago. The U.S. and Iran are in a stalemate in Iraq and neither of them can move much.
Iran learned the hard way that it cannot really fight the U.S., only at a price too high to pay. It also learned that the Russians and Chinese will ultimately do nothing to save the skin of the Iranian regime in a clash with the U.S. Extended diplomacy does not change the military realities, as we all know too well. Now, Iran knows that too. It also knows that too aggressive an action by its proxies will be identified as Iranian attacks and the U.S. will respond accordingly.
The U.S. doesn’t have much room to maneuver, either. It lacks the political and popular support to go forward with a full-scale war, unless Iran chooses to initiate one. The U.S. showed Iran their limits but is not able to, politically, press much further themselves. The U.S. cannot fight Iran in Iran as long as Iran backs down (as it did now). At the same time, the U.S. cannot withdraw from its regional position without also conceding its superpower status. However, if it will give up that, it will also give up the dominance of the dollar and all other perks that come with American military might. That price is too high for the U.S. It seems the superpower and the regional power are at an impasse. But, that is not really true. While Iran is intractable stuck, the U.S. can seize the moment and win this game if it is smart enough.
This whole clash made the U.S. finally realize that the Baghdad government and parliament are, largely, powerless. When influential Shia cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr made his sudden move in support of Iran, he created a situation in which the whole Baghdad government and parliament became a branch of the Iranian government. It looks as if there is finally some serious reflection on the part of the U.S. about who Baghdad represents and, especially, who it doesn’t. Washington seems to be coming to the realization that it needs to deal with the peoples of Iraq directly, as Baghdad clearly is not representing them.
The Kurds grabbed that moment immediately, essentially declared that the U.S. needed to stay ‘to fight ISIS’ while in Baghdad, the Shia factions of Iraqi Parliament passed a bill asking the central government to kick the U.S. out. The Kurds know that if their statement is taken seriously by the U.S., it will mean that they have made a big leap towards their independence. It will mean that the U.S. recognizes that Erbil is governing the foreign and defense relations of the KRG, in turn meaning that the U.S. would recognize that the KRG has the ultimate jurisdiction of a state.
For the Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrian people, it is a ‘do or die’ moment. They can now unite and present themselves as a nation towards the U.S. and all other internal and external parties. Patriarch Bishop Sako already called for the political unity of all Chaldean-Syriac-Assyrians and it is indeed time that this happens. It means that all parties need to give up the idea that they can dominate and exclude as it means that all need to accept all in order to be able together to represent all. The work that began in 2017 needs to be finished and the time is right. Those nations of Iraq who now come together can seize their moment.
If the U.S. starts to speak and deal with the nations of Iraq directly, it is a massive loss for Iran. Oppressors such as the Iranian regime need international recognition for the existing central governments in order to be able to continue their oppression. The U.S. can inflict a massive loss to Iran by working with the nations and components of Iraq directly aside from its dealings with Baghdad.
Finally, this means that the U.S. can inflict another blow to Iran. The U.S. can also start to deal with the nations of Iran directly and bring the Iranian opposition together in the concept of a confederal Iran. This would mean that the U.S. can mirror the Iranian proxies who operate outside Iran by having U.S. allies in Iran.
The U.S. is in a position to inflict a devastating blow to Iran without firing a single bullet. If it is smart enough, the U.S. can erode Iran’s political power by dealing with the nations and components of Iraq and Iran directly, rather than through Iranian proxies, such as Baghdad. Iran has played their cards; the U.S. still has some yet to play. If it can play them smartly, Iran has lost.
Johannes de Jong is director of Sallux, the political foundation for the European Christian Political Movement.