Last week, we reviewed the media coverage of Iran’s role in creating – and perpetuating – the new regional order in the Middle East, replete with a jocular caricature of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Barack Obama struggling to stave off the Islamic State.
It’s not a joke, it’s a very real possibility: Iran has been cited as a potential ally in the fight against IS for months, and has been gradually increasing its involvement – both political and military – in war-torn Iraq. Yet its ideological alignment with the Western-led coalition against the murderous terror group, and particularly the United States, seems suspect at best – and we’re not even talking about its recent sanctions-flouting antics, the usual threatening rhetoric or the obstacles still preventing a nuclear deal.
No, we’re talking about Iran’s attitude to ISIS – and its stance on the Western coalition against it. A major military drill that kicked off in Iran last week – code-named Great Prophet 9 – was aimed not at the terrorists spreading through Syria and Iraq, but at simulated “US might symbols” and “threats, particularly by the Great Satan.” Critics of Obama’s Iran policy rushed to point out the irony, with Lawrence Haas commenting on CNN that “by speeding blindly toward a deal, America’s leaders are […] ignoring the many real dangers that Tehran” – which Haas termed “one of the world’s most dangerous regimes” – “presents to US interests.”
Yes, Americans view Iran just as unfavorably as Iran views America, if a recent Gallup poll is any indication – although only 9 percent named Iran as “America’s greatest enemy.” But Iran’s enduring hostility could be bad news for the struggle against IS, and not just due to the destabilizing impact of its arms exports on the region: a recent report by TIME’s Kay Armin Serjoie revealed that Tehran believes the US created ISIS to “engage Muslims against each other” and “waste their energy” – not to mention “inconvenience” Iran – all while giving Islam a bad rap. Not only that, but Iran sees ISIS as “weak” compared to its Western “creators” – hinting that in Tehran’s view, the murderous Islamist militants aren’t the real enemy here. Who, then, is Iran arming the Middle East against?