The horrors of the brutal “caliphate” of the Islamic State – from its slave market to the numerous terrorist attacks it has perpetrated – are documented all over the media, as is its hypocrisy. Iran has tried to present itself as standing at the helm of the struggle to prevent further attacks and remove the murderous group from power, bringing its own troops and proxies into Syria (exacerbating the Syrians’ plight in the process). Even the Iranian bodybuilder and social media celebrity known as the ‘Persian Hercules,’ Sajad Gharibi, has announced his intention to take on the Islamic State.
But are the Islamic State and the Islamic republic really that different? Not if you ask commentator Tallha Abdulrazaq, who suggested in a think piece in Middle East Monitor last month that not only are the two not so dissimilar, despite the sectarian differences that divide them, but even that Iran is “what the Islamic State will look like if it succeeds.”
The signs, wrote Abdulrazaq, are there: the Islamic republic, too, was born amidst a revolution guided by a “distorted vision of Islam,” before evolving into a real state. Violence, terrorism, and war drive the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Force (IRGC) just as they do IS – with the ties between Sunni and Shi’a terror groups cutting across “apostate” sectarian lines. And clearly, both Iran and the Islamic State have a blatant disregard for human rights, including women’s rights, children’s rights, minority rights, and more.
Building on Abdulrazaq’s observations, Foreign Policy’s Raymond Tanter suggested at the beginning of July that al-Qaeda and the Islamic State should be understood as “protégées of Iran, rather than merely its rivals.” Citing evidence that al-Qaeda was trained in suicide bombing by Tehran, as well as Iran’s nurturing of the Islamic State to prop up Syrian President Bashar Assad, Tanter highlighted the link, cooperation, and mutual dependence between these supposed religious and ideological “mortal enemies,” concluding that they share common Islamist roots, as well as a distorted, militant, “apocalyptic vision of Islam.” Perhaps this is a challenge to the “conventional wisdom” in the media (no doubt encouraged by Iran) that Iran and the Islamic State are ideological opponents.