A week ago Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seemed to like the idea of a conflict between ISIS and Iran — a conflict in which the United States should refrain from becoming aligned with Tehran.
“Don’t strengthen either of them. Weaken both,” Netanyahu said.
He may have imagined his anti-interventionism would resonate with several constituencies in the U.S.. But he couldn’t have imagined what might happen next.
With the U.S. reluctant to intervene on behalf of Maliki, he has turned to both Iran and Russia both of which have stepped up to provide military support. Iran may have already conducted air strikes in Iraq.
Now comes a twist which — if the reporting is accurate — will shock the Israelis: a significant boost to Iran’s air force.
David Cenciotti, a highly respected aviation blogger, reports:
On Jul. 1, all the seven operational Su-25 Frogfoot attack planes operated by the Pasdaran (informal name of the IRGC – the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution) have completed their deployment to Imam Ali Airbase where they will join the ex-Russian Air Force Su-25s already delivered to Iraq in the air war against ISIS (Al Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).
The aircraft (three Su-25UBKM and four Su-25KM jets, according to ACIG.org sources) will be operated by four Iraqi pilots and 10 Iranian pilots.
The aircraft and support to fly them would be part of a military contract (backed by the U.S.) according to which Iran’s IRGC Air Force will receive six Su-30K multirole jets destined to Iraq.
The Su-30K is one of the best Russian combat jets available and would present a significant extra layer of defense for Iran in the event that Israel ever considers attacking Iran’s nuclear installations.
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report on Obama’s lack of options in Iraq alongside Russia and Iran’s growing involvement, notes:
The swift action by two of America’s adversaries has prompted Obama’s critics in Washington — and even some members of his administration — to argue that the U.S. must act quickly to avert an extremist takeover of a country it invaded and occupied for more than eight years.
Obama’s ability to influence events in Iraq is limited, though, according to a U.S. intelligence official.
Two U.S. administrations have inspired distrust among both Shiites and Sunnis by invading in 2003, then failing to stabilize the country or compel Maliki to stop his revenge campaign against Sunnis, and finally withdrawing and leaving a polarized state at the end of 2011, the official said.
Now, the administration is exploring a three-pronged strategy, according to U.S. officials involved in the effort. It consists of providing Maliki’s government with limited military aid, pressing him to step down or agree to a more inclusive government and trying with Saudi Arabian assistance to pry Sunni tribesmen away from their de facto alliance with the Islamic State.