The NY Times front-pages a thought-provoking headline:
U.S. and Iran Unlikely Allies in Iraq Battle
It's plausible deniability all around:
BAGHDAD — With American bombs raining down from the sky, Shiite militia fighters aligned with Iran battled Sunni extremists over the weekend, punching through their defenses to break the weekslong siege of Amerli, a cluster of farming villages whose Shiite residents faced possible slaughter.
The fight in northern Iraq appeared to be the first time American warplanes and militias backed by Iran had worked with a common purpose on a battlefield against militants from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, even though the Obama administration said there was no direct coordination with the militias.
The United States was careful to note on Sunday that it was working on Amerli with its allies: regular Iraqi Army units and Kurdish security forces, which the United States has been supporting with air power since President Obama authorized airstrikes several weeks ago.
“Any coordinating with the Shiite militias was not done by us — it would have been done by the ISF,” a senior administration official said on Sunday, referring to the Iraqi Security Forces. But it is well known that the Shiite militias have been fighting alongside the army in recent months as the threat from ISIS became clear.
What is the old saying - the ally of my ally is my ally?
And what could go wrong?
Should such military actions continue, they could signal a dramatic shift for the United States and Iran, which have long vied for control in Iraq. They could also align the interests of the Americans with their longtime sworn enemies in the Shiite militias, whose fighters killed many United States soldiers during the long occupation of Iraq.
Left unmentioned - in the next few months the US will lead a push to increase sanctions on Iran unless the nuclear talks show great progress. Which means we can anticipate an announcement of great progress, because isolating Iran even as we rely on them to help roll back ISIS may be asking for more nuance then the Iranians can deliver.
Since a nuclear free Iran has long been a US goal, one might view the ISIS debacle as a stepping stone to an even larger debacle. But don't be distracted by this media noise - it may look worrisome to untrained amateurs but Obama is playing five-dimensional chess and any day now Putin will increase the pressure on Iran and bring them to heel. Or might, if not for the Ukraine aggravation.
Hmm - is it five-dimensional chess, or fore?