FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Hostage Game

by PATRICK COCKBURN

 

Arbil

At 3am on January 11, US military forces raided the Iranian liaison office in the Kurdish capital Arbil and detained five Iranian officials who are still prisoners.

The attack marked a significant escalation in the confrontation between the US and Iran.

Britain is inevitably involved in this as America’s only important foreign ally in Iraq. In fact the US raid could have had even more significant consequences if the Americans had captured the Iranian official they were targeting. Fuad Hussein, the chief of staff of the Kurdish president Massoud Barzani, told me that “they were after Mohammed Jafari, the deputy chairman of Iran’s National Security Council.”

It is a measure of the difficulty America has in getting its close allies in Iraq, notably the Kurds, to join it in confronting Iran that Mr Jafari was in Arbil as part of an Iranian delegation. He had just visited Mr Barzani in his mountain-top headquarters at Salahudin and earlier he met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Dokan in eastern Kurdistan.

The political links between Iran and Iraq will be difficult to sever. Most Iraqi political leaders, Arab or Kurdish, were exiles in Iran or in Syria. They are also conscious that one day the US will withdraw from Iraq but Iran will always be there.

Some businessmen in Arbil scent profitable opportunities as the UN tightens its embargo on trade with Iran, announced at the weekend by the UN. As official trade is squeezed, they foresee remunerative possibilities for smuggling goods in and out of Iran.

Economically, northern Iraq needs Iran more than Iran needs it. Iranian petrol commands a premium price because it is considered pure and Kurdistan is eager to increase its supply of electricity, of which it is permanently short, from Iran.

In terms of US domestic and international politics, an American confrontation with Iran on the nuclear issue probably makes sense. Washington can rally support against Iran in a way that it cannot do when it looks for support for its occupation of Iraq. Seeing the US bogged down in Iraq, the Iranians may have overplaying their hand in developing nuclear power.

Inside Iraq, confrontation with Iran does not make much political sense. All America’s allies in Iraq have close ties with Iran. The only anti-Iranian community in Iraq is the five million Sunni who have been fighting the US for the past four years.

The US raid on Arbil in January would have had far more serious consequences if Mr Jafari had been abducted. As it was, the seizure of five Iranian officials seems to have set the scene for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards seizing 15 British sailors and marines.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq‘, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006.

 

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
May 06, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Dave Wagner
When Liberals Run Out of Patience: the Impolite Exile of Seymour Hersh
John Stauber
Strange Bedfellows: the Bizarre Coalition of Kochs, Neocons and Democrats Allied Against Trump and His #FUvoters
Joshua Frank
Afghanistan: Bombing the Land of the Snow Leopard
Bill Martin
Fear of Trump: Annals of Parliamentary Cretinism
Carol Miller
Pretending the Democratic Party Platform Matters
Paul Street
Hey, Bernie, Leave Them Kids Alone
Tamara Pearson
Mexico Already Has a Giant Wall, and a Mining Company Helped to Build It
Dave Lindorff
Bringing the Sanders ‘Revolution’ to Philly’s Streets
Margaret Kimberley
Obama’s Last Gasp Imperialism
Carmelo Ruiz
The New Wave of Repression in Puerto Rico
Jack Denton
Prison Labor Strike in Alabama: “We Will No Longer Contribute to Our Own Oppression”
Jeffrey St. Clair
David Bowie’s 100 Favorite Books, the CounterPunch Connection
David Rosen
Poverty in America: the Deepening Crisis
Pepe Escobar
NATO on Trade, in Europe and Asia, is Doomed
Pete Dolack
Another Goodbye to Democracy if Transatlantic Partnership is Passed
Carla Blank
Prince: Pain and Dance
Josh Hoxie
American Tax Havens: Elites Don’t Have to go to Panama to Hide Their Money–They’ve Got Delaware
Gabriel Rockhill
Media Blackout on Nuit Debout
Barry Lando
Welcome to the Machine World: the Perfect Technological Storm
Frank Stricker
Ready for the Coming Assault on Social Security? Five Things Paul Ryan and Friends Don’t Want You to Think About
Hilary Goodfriend
The Wall Street Journal is Playing Dirty in El Salvador, Again
Robert Gordon
Beyond the Wall: an In-Depth Look at U.S. Immigration Policy
Roger Annis
City at the Heart of the Alberta Tar Sands Burning to the Ground
Simon Jones
RISE: New Politics for a Tired Scotland
Rob Hager
After Indiana: Sanders Wins another Purple State, But Remains Lost in a Haze of Bad Strategy and Rigged Delegate Math
Howard Lisnoff
Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot
Adam Bartley
Australia-China Relations and the Politics of Canberra’s Submarine Deal
Nyla Ali Khan
The Complexity of the Kashmir Issue: “Conflict Can and Should be Handled Constructively
Ramzy Baroud
The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in Palestine: Is His Real Legacy Being Upheld?
Mel Gurtov
North Korea’s New Weapons: Full Speed Ahead?
Alli McCracken - Raed Jarrar
#IsraelSaudi: A Match Made in Hell
George Wuerthner
Working Wilderness and Other Code Words
Robert Koehler
Cowardice and Exoneration in Kunduz
Ron Jacobs
Psychedelic Rangers Extraordinaire
Missy Comley Beattie
It’s a Shit Show!
Kevin Martin
President Obama Should Meet A-Bomb Survivors
David Macaray
Our Best Weapon Is Being Systematically Eliminated
Colin Todhunter
Future Options: From Militarism and Monsanto to Gandhi and Bhaskar Save
Binoy Kampmark
The Trump Train Chugs Along
Thomas Knapp
The End of the Bill of Rights is at Our Fingertips
Cesar Chelala
A Lesson of Auschwitz
John Laforge
Dan Berrigan, 1921 – 2016: “We Haven’t Lost, Because We Haven’t Given Up.”
Norman Trabulsy Jr
John Denver and My 40th High School Reunion
Charles R. Larson
Being Gay in China, Circa 1987
David Yearsley
Skepticism, Irony, and Doubt: Williams on Bach
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail