As the Obama administration begins to lay out a policy on the uprising in Iraq and Republican House and Senate members weigh in, one sharp area of disagreement that is fast emerging is whether to trust Iran's intentions toward neighboring Iraq.
Asked at his Thursday news conference whether he was willing to work with Iran on the Iraq crisis, the president replied that "our view is that Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we're sending, which is that Iraq only holds together if it's inclusive and if the interests of Sunni, Shia, and Kurd are all respected."
But if Iran sent in its armed forces to help the Shia, he warned, "then that probably worsens the situation and the prospect for government formation that would actually be constructive over the long term."
Taking such a course of action is "probably not good for the Iranian economy or the Iranian people over the long term, either," the president added. He concluded on a note of some optimism, saying, "old habits die hard, and we'll have to see whether they can take what I think would be a more promising path over the next several days."
On Capitol Hill, however, Republican lawmakers who spoke to Newsmax made it very clear they had no hope at all for any Iraq policy that accommodated Iran.
Asked whether the United States should work with Iran on the Iraq crisis, North Carolina Rep. Robert Pittenger, chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, told Newsmax, "No way. We shouldn't go there. We have enough friends in that part of the world we can work with and find common ground on Iraq: the Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. I would sit down with [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan before I would start bowing and deferring to those who oppose America at every turn."
Sophomore Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a leading advocate of a U.S.-backed airstrike in Iraq, was emphatic that no action in Iraq should involve Iran.
"Iran had a big hand in the destabilization of Iraq," said Kinzinger, a U.S. Air Force veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan and a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. "And now we are being told they are our best friend in the region? Until we get the Iranians to put the nuclear issue on the table, we can't cooperate with them."
And Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Newsmax: "One of the worst outcomes of what is now happening in Iraq would be Iran gaining greater influence in that part of the world. They don't share our values, and anything that works to their advantage is disastrous for America."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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