The State of Failed States: Recent Events in Syria and Iraq

In Syria, Aleppo is a human rights catastrophe. There is little hope the fighting will end soon. Previously, the fighting had mostly been between “moderate rebels” and government forces. However, extremist groups recently moved in. Al-Nusra unleashed a potent attack on Assad’s intelligence services in Aleppo. Most recently, the Syrian regime conducted an operation that ended with the death of the leader of al-Nusra. The battle is still raging, extremists battling moderates battling Assad’s regime.

Meanwhile, fighting in the south is going poor for Assad. Hezbollah, the elite proxy force based in Lebanon and receiving training and funding from Iran, is making rapid advances in Syria. They’ve recently pushed into the area near the Golan Heights, a disputed zone on the southern border of Syria, shared with Israel. This marks the first time any Iranian forces have gotten near the geographical borders of Israel.

Over in Iraq, the fight for Tikrit has been slow-going and rough. The plan, devised by Iranian generals and enacted mostly by Shiite militias, calls for the encirclement of the city. However, as predicted, roadside bombs are slowing the advance. The primarily Sunni citizens are fleeing, fearing both the fighting and potential atrocities by the sectarian forces under Iranian command.

The US hasn’t participated in the Tikrit campaign, leaving the Iranian and Iraqis to control the skies. Cooperation between Iran and the US doesn’t exist in Iraq. It’s mostly strategic dancing around each other, the Iranians on the ground and the US in the air. What do we gain from avoiding direct cooperation? Is this a matter of political optics?

Because it’s pretty clear we’d have more progress if the US worked with the Iranians. Even if the US don’t help them, the influence of Iran is already deeply ingrained in the Iraqi regime and even more so in its army. If the US does help, they’re essentially giving Iran the Sunni areas of Iraq on a platter. On the other hand, if the US doesn’t get involved, then how many will die because of partisan foreign policy?

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