Iran is so worried by the territory gains made by militants in Iraq that anti-insurgency cooperation with Washington is possible, an Iranian official said.
The option of cooperating with the United States in providing military assistance to the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad is being debated among senior Iranian government figures, a high-ranking Tehran official told Reuters in a Friday report. The military aid would likely entail dispatching advisers and arms to Baghdad, but not troops. The White House declined to comment on the possibility of collaborating with Iran to shore up the embattled Iraqi government, the New York Times reported.
The United States and Iran have been at odds for decades. Washington has repeatedly warned it is not taking off the table the threat of a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities. However, recent multinational talks aimed at reaching a lasting compromise on Tehran's nuclear activities have opened the door for smoother relations.
The remarkably swift takeover by an al-Qaida breakaway group of so much Iraqi territory this week has taken aback both Iran and the United States. The ideology of the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria calls for the establishment of a strict Sunni caliphate that spans the borders of Syria and Iraq. Washington is concerned about the destabilizing impact the group's influence would have on a number of key Middle Eastern countries. Officials also worry that the organization could inspire and train extremist fighters in mounting terrorist strikes on the United States and Europe. Tehran, meanwhile, fears that ISIS militants will attack Shiite shrines in Iraq and replace a government in Baghdad that is friendly with Iran with one that is deeply hostile.
A number of al-Qaida-inspired groups have emerged in recent years in the Middle East and Africa, dampening the optimism of 2011 that -- following the death of Osama bin Laden -- the United States was on the verge of vanquishing the threat posed by the international terrorist network.
Ex-U.S. State Department counterterrorism coordinator Daniel Benjamin told Reuters he was "considerably more optimistic 18 months ago than ... now" about the danger posed by al-Qaida-affiliated groups.
Meanwhile, Egypt has sent several hundred troops to an area close to the Taba border checkpoint with Israel. The action, which has the support of the Israeli government, is a response to concerns that al-Qaida-inspired extremists operating in the Sinai Peninsula region could use anti-aircraft missiles smuggled out of Libya to attack Israeli passenger planes, the Times of Israel reports.