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Fmr. Obama Adviser: US Should Partner with Iran Against ISIL

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani / AP
• September 9, 2014 3:19 pm

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A former Obama administration national security adviser is calling on the United States to partner alongside Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iraq to bolster the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL or ISIS).

Douglas Ollivant, the National Security Council’s (NSC) director for Iraq under both the Obama and George W. Bush administrations, wrote in Al Jazeera Tuesday that the "U.S. should welcome" the IRGC into its coalition against ISIL.

This could include providing intelligence, air support, and other military measure to the Iranians, which have been sending reinforcements to Iraq to help fight against ISIL.

Both the United States and Iran have rejected the notion of working with one another against ISIL.

"The U.S. must assemble another ‘coalition of the willing’ to engage IS militants on the ground," Ollivant wrote in Al Jazeera. "The Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga troops should form the bulk of the force, but there is a menagerie of unlikely allies as well. For example, it is an open secret that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps is at least advising Iraqi forces, if not providing shock troops as well. Rather than rejecting its influence, the U.S. should welcome its participation."

The United States should "orchestrate" the effort against ISIL by not freezing out Shia religious groups, such as Iran, the Syrian regime, and even Hezbollah.

"Given IS policy toward the Shia populations in the region, Shia groups—Iran, the Assad regime, Iraqi Shia militias and even Hezbollah—are among the most motivated to fight IS militants," Ollivant wrote. "But if the fight against the IS came to resemble an anti-Sunni coalition, military utility could be trumped by political disaster."

The United Statess advantage is its air power, he writes.

"The use of U.S. ground troops remains toxic in U.S. and Iraqi politics and is therefore off the table," Ollivant wrote. "But the U.S. can and should provide airpower, intelligence, planning, and synchronization (the coordination of complex military operations)—all areas in which the U.S. has a marked advantage."

"The U.S. should also be willing to provide weapons and equipment to the government of Iraq, at market price," he adds. "Iraq has sufficient petrodollars to fund its war effort, and it is important that the fight against the IS be, to the maximum extent possible, solved locally."

Published under: Iran, Islamic State