The Fight Against the Islamic State
Conflict in the Middle East
By Rick Brinegar
Just when we thought we had a handle on who is against who, and who is on whose side in the Middle East, things have gotten even more difficult to understand.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the foreign minister a country traditionally considered to be a sworn enemy of the United States, has announced that Iran is looking forward to joining America in the fight against the violent extremism of the Islamic State or ISIS.
The White House strategy in opposing ISIS in Iraq has increasingly depended on the assistance of Iran to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIS.” Iranian troops are helping Iraq resist the advance of ISIS while the U.S. military trains Iraq’s under-performing armed forces. The U.S. has been providing “air strikes, airborne intelligence, and Advise & Assist support,” as American joins Iran and Iraq in the fight against ISIS.
What kind of situation makes mortal enemies, such as the U.S. and Iran, join to fight a common enemy? Much of the Iranian public feel threatened by ISIS because of Iran’s common border with Iraq. In August, 2014 President Obama said, in response to the beheading of American journalist Jim Foley, “No just God would stand for what they did yesterday, and for what they do every single day. ISIL has no ideology of any value to human beings. Their ideology is bankrupt. They may claim out of expediency that they are at war with the United States or the West, but the fact is they terrorize their neighbors and offer them nothing but an endless slavery to their empty vision, and the collapse of any definition of civilized behavior.”
So, here we are, with the United States in some sort of de facto or tacit alliance with Iran to oppose Jihadi extremists in Iraq. However, without U.S. spotters on the ground, American airstrikes may not help much. On June 11, 2015 President Obama announced plans to send more U.S. military personnel to “train, advise, and assist” Iraqi Security Forces, though he had promised no “boots on the ground” to fight ISIS.
We had become accustomed to Iran calling the United States the “Great Satan,” and we understood that the United States considered Iran to be a member of the “Axis of Evil.” Things didn’t seem very friendly. But recently, the U.S. has defended Iran’s compliance with the Joint Plan of Action, an interim agreement requiring Iran to reduce its low-enriched uranium stockpile. A certain senior official agrees that the U.S. defense of Iranian compliance is “weird.” President Obama has been so resolute about securing a nuclear deal with Iran that he has been trying to talk Congress into believing that Iran’s nuclear activities are as transparent as he is.
Politics and war do indeed create odd bedfellows.