US officials are struggling with a question that they largely don’t have any control over, that of Iranian forces involved in the Iraqi war against ISIS.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Martin Dempsey told Congress he sees this as a good thing, and that “anything anyone does to counter ISIS is in the main a good outcome.”
Other administration officials, however, don’t like Iran stealing their thunder, saying they are concerned by the “sectarian danger” posed by Shi’ite Iran helping their Shi’ite-dominated neighbor, Iraq, against Sunni ISIS.
That concern is two-fold. The US is certainly annoyed that they are competing for Iraqi affection with Iran, particularly since they seem to be losing in recent weeks, but they also have to worry about a Sunni-Arab dominated coalition they’ve been trying to assemble against ISIS.
Iraq has repeatedly made clear that involvement from nations like Qatar and Saudi Arabia is unwelcome in their country, and that they (along with Iran and Syria) view these nations more on the supply-side of ISIS, as financiers, than as military allies against them.
This has kept these Gulf allies confined to airstrikes against ISIS in Syria, though since they are constantly complaining about the war being against ISIS and not the Shi’ite Assad government, the Iraqi government may be right to avoid getting them too involved.