When it comes to ISIS and Iraq, the US and Iran are on the same page.
There aren’t a lot of things that US and Iran agree on. Iran’s nuclear program and the existence of an Israeli state are just some of those topics. Actually it’s a safe assumption that both nations don’t see eye-to-eye on basically everything.
When it comes to ISIS – a terrorist organization that is currently trying to upend the Iraqi government – the US and Iran agree; ISIS gaining control of Iraq is unacceptable.
Each has their own reasons of course.
For Iran, as a Shia Muslim government, the last thing they need are Sunni Muslim rebels (ie ISIS) taking control of neighboring Iraq, another friendly Shia Muslim government. Iran has been so concerned about this that back in June Iran had sent 500 Revolutionary Guard to help Iraq fight off ISIS. Now it’s important to note that Iran’s Revolutionary Guard is one of the most effectively skilled military forces in the Middle East. The closest US equivalent would be the Navy Seals. Actually if this report is to be believed, Iran actually has more troops in Iraq than they’re letting on. In other words, Iran is taking the ISIS situation in Iraq very seriously.
As for the US, we all know the story. The Bush Administration thought there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq under the Saddam Hussein regime, yet after a US led invasion, none were found. Over a decade later, there are hundreds of US troops still stationed in Iraq with terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, fighting to gain control of the region. So for the US it’s simple. After upending a ruthless dictator like Saddam Hussein to only be replaced by Muslim extremists would make a bad situation even worse in terms of US interests.
So since ISIS is a common threat to both the US and Iran interests, how are both countries cooperating to make sure ISIS doesn’t gain control of Iraq?
Well, that’s the thing.
They aren’t cooperating.
For the US, some high ranking officials in Iran’s military are currently targeted with US sanctions due to Iran’s nuclear program. It’s not hard to see a situation where Iran would insist these sanctions be lifted if the US and Iran were to cooperate in military operations. Not only that but allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel would without a doubt be against US cooperation with Iran, which would alienate two strong allies in a region of the world where the US has so very few.
It’s still unclear whether cooperation is even possible between US and Iran, but one thing is for certain. ISIS isn’t going anywhere for the time being. Cooperation between US and Iran may soon not be an option, but a necessity.
(Photo Credit: International Herald Tribune, New York Times)