NICK ARMER WRITES – U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry announced earlier this week that the U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State is “working”. It is hard to imagine how funding the organization’s expansion into Iran and Pakistan is helping to achieve national goals. Unfortunately, the American campaign to destabilize the government of Iran has had some terrible side effects.
In 2006, the Bush administration decided to take a more confrontational stance against Iran by creating offices in the Pentagon and State Department dedicated to undermining the Iranian government. The program’s activities included promoting democracy within the country, increasing American broadcasting into Iran from Dubai, and funding Iranian dissidents. When the Obama administration took over in 2009, they announced the U.S. Agency for International Development would continue funding Iranian separatist movements, a decision they may come to regret.
The Baloch are an ethnic group who inhabit the desert and mountainous regions between Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The majority of Balochis practice Sunni Islam, a fact which has alienated them from the Shiite government of Iran. Religious discordance and a fiercely independent cultural identity have led to the formation of many Balochi separatists groups, some of whom have received funding from the U.S. government in their effort to weaken the Iranian government.
The U.S. proxy war against Iran has also embroiled Pakistanis in the fighting. Balochi militants move freely between the two countries and the Iranian government has resorted to launching rocket attacks into Pakistan. The Balochi jihadists have also begun attacking Shiite communities in the Balochistan province of Pakistan.
The rise of the Islamic State has become a powerful ally for Sunni jihadists throughout the Middle East. The group’s anti-Iranian stance appeals to the Balochi separatists in particular. The Pakistani government has estimated that ten to twelve thousand have been recruited by the Islamic State. Furthermore, the terrorist network has begun to establish bases within Balochistan.
The growing influence of the Islamic State over the Balochi jihadists should worry Americans, whose tax dollars have funded the groups’ existence in an unsuccessful bid to undermine the Iranian leadership. Like the world has seen many times before, US ploys to destabilize governments in the Middle East unfailingly backfire and only lead to further conflict. In this case, the policy has opened the door for expansion of the Islamic State into lands far beyond Iraq and Syria.