What’s Iran Up To In The ISIS Conflict?

By Sal Bommarito

The involvement of Iran in the ISIS conflict is anything but simple. There are a number of issues that will affect the political, diplomatic and military moves Iran makes in the months to come. They include the following:

• Iran borders Iraq.
• The Shiite majority dominates Iraq’s government.
• Iran is predominately Shiite, while ISIS is radical Sunni.
• Iran resents U.S. presence in the Middle East.
• Iran is negotiating with the U.S. and others relating to its fledgling nuclear program.
• Iran is an ally of Syria.

Iraq as a neighbor. Recently, ISIS forces approached the border of Iran during its campaign in eastern Iraq. The Iranian government responded by warning ISIS to keep its distance. The Iranians said they would respond aggressively deep into Iraq if military action occurs near its border. Iran is concerned that ISIS may destabilize its population.

Iraq government is controlled by Shiites. Iraq and Iran have become allies since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Sunni government. It is understandable that Iran would want to help solidify Shiite power in Iraq.

Iran is Shiite and ISIS is Sunni. The tension between Iran and ISIS is predictable as they are on opposite sides of the Islamic scale.

Iran does not want the U.S. to intervene in the Middle East. Even though the U.S. has targeted ISIS, Iran does not want the U.S. to conduct military operation in Iraq unless the Iraqi government continues to encourage American involvement.

Iran’s nuclear program. Iran is willing to work with the U.S. to fight ISIS only if the U.S. negotiates a favorable deal relating to Iran’s nuclear program. This is not likely to be a constructive process.

Iran is an ally of Syria and supportive of Assad. Iran objects to American bombing of ISIS forces in Syria unless Syria invites the U.S. to do so. Iran has indicated that the bombings are illegal by international law.

The bluster of the Iranian leaders during the U.N. meetings last week exposed Iran’s sensitivities towards Iraq, Syria and the U.S. Religious gains together with endorsement of its nuclear program will drive its diplomatic and military decisions.

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