Reuters reported on Monday that 3,000 Iranian-backed Shiite fighters reached the Habbaniya base near Ramadi as part of the attempt to retake the Iraqi city captured by ISIS on Sunday. The fall of the provincial Iraqi capital, in the Sunni heartland of Anbar Province, reflects the deepening sectarianism precipitated by Iran’s expansion into Shiite-majority Iraq. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said before a House Appropriations defense subcommittee in March that “sectarianism is one of the things that concerns me very much. And of course, it’s the root of the Iranian presence in Iraq.” Iranian Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehqan arrived in Baghdad on Monday to determine “ways to expand defense and military cooperation and promote cooperation against terrorism to create a secure and stable region."
After the fall of Ramadi, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called upon the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, organized under the name, “Popular Mobilization Committees,” to prepare for a counterattack. Jonathan Schanzer, Vice President for Research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, explained Iran’s goals in Iraq to CNN’s Brooke Baldwin, “This is an aspiring hegemony. They’re looking to capture as much of Iraq as possible.” He went on to say that Iran uses ISIS victories as an opportunity to take over. He concluded that “This is very much a part of their strategy.” According to Jacob Siegel and Michael Pregent, a former Department of Defense advisor in Iraq, writing in The Daily Beast on Monday, Iraq’s Shiite leaders "fear empowering Iraq's Sunnis more than they fear allowing ISIS to continue attacking and bleeding the country’s Sunni regions."
In February, Michael Weiss and Michael Pregent declared that “Iran’s influence in Iraq since ISIS sacked Mosul last June has resulted in a wave of sectarian bloodletting and dispossession against the country’s Sunni minority population, usually at the hands of Iranian-backed Shia militia groups...” In the last large-scale operation against ISIS in Tikrit, according to Siegel and Pregent, “Iran made no secret of its role planning the operation and the leading role played by its Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.”
In order to ensure that the emerging nuclear deal will effectively prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the United States must insist on implementing eight principles to “achieve a sound, enforceable deal,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – S.C) wrote in an op-ed(Google link) in The Wall Street Journal today.
Graham wrote that the principles he is proposing have strong bipartisan support and “largely reflect President Obama’s negotiating position at the start of the process.”
The eight principles outlined by Graham before any restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program should be lifted are: limiting Iran to enough enriched uranium to feed a single commercial reactor; shutting down all of Iran’s hidden and fortified nuclear facilities, including Fordow; allowing “anytime, anywhere” inspections of all Iranian military and non-military sites without allowing Iran a veto over inspections; ensuring sanctions relief is conditioned on certification of Iranian compliance by the International Atomic Energy Agency; creating a well-defined process to “snap back” sanctions in case Iran is caught cheating on an agreement; forbidding Iran from developing advanced centrifuges that could reduce its breakout time; removing all enriched uranium from Iran, other than what is needed for a single reactor; and certifying that Iran has changed its aggressive, destabilizing behavior.
In a 2012 interview with journalist Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, Obama used arguments similar to the ones brought up by Graham today, raising concerns that a nuclear Iran would risk nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, be a more destabilizing force in the region, and would be a threat to share its nuclear technology with terrorists. (via TheTower.org)