Tehran Could Help U.S. Combat Militants in Iraq: Iranian Official

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
June 13, 2014, 10:06 a.m.

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.

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