The skies over Baghdad are filling up. Iran just dispatched jets and, apparently, pilots to the beleaguered Iraqi government. According to the BBC:
Iran has supplied Iraq with attack jets to help it counter an offensive by Sunni rebels led by the Islamist group Isis, strong evidence suggests.Russia supplied an initial delivery of the aircraft just a few days ago.But analysts at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) in London say that a further delivery, on 1 July, originates from Iran.This means that the US—which has also sent aircraft to Iraq—is operating alongside Iran in this conflict.
Earlier this week, Russia sent jets to Iraq, and last month Syrian planes struck at ISIS forces in the country with Iraqi government approval. Meanwhile, the U.S. deploys both planes and drones in the skies above Iraq, but at the moment these are intelligence-gathering, not caliphate-fighting.The Obama administration has tried to go slow in Iraq, but events are racing ahead. As the world seems to have noticed, President Obama prefers to deliberate (dither, say his critics) when it comes to making foreign policy commitments. U.S. rivals are realizing they can take advantage of this.While President Obama and his top aides chopped logic and made incremental moves, Russia enhanced its regional footprint, while Iran has increased its hold over the Shi’a powers. As Maliki gains external allies willing to supply and fight for him, President Obama inexorably loses his leverage. Russia and Iran working together are making it harder for the U.S. to develop a coherent policy line even as more U.S. interests are affected by the escalating war.Appalled by the badness of his options in the Syria/Iraq wars, President Obama has consistently sought to avoid making clearcut decisions or commitments. It looks like a sensible and prudent policy, but the consequence has been that over time all his options get worse—and U.S. engagement in the conflict gets harder to avoid.