A quirky result of one of the strangest examples of the saying “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”, Iran and the U.S. may form an alliance against a mutual enemy in their midst. The Sunni militant uprising across the Middle East has provided the two adversary nations with the groundwork for a growing allegiance. The Al-Qaeda linked militants, armed with pickup trucks and Kalashnikovs from Soviet-era armories, are looking to establish a stronghold of Islamic fundamentalism along “sectarian fault lines” in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
The fighters who were drawn into Syria’s 2 1/2 year long conflict, are now looking for ways to spread the instability to neighboring countries. The most recent target for the militants is Iraq, where the U.S. has spent over $1 trillion dollars and countless lives trying to stabilize. After uprisings from Sunni residents in Iraq over their grievances with the western backed Shiite Government, militants moved in to capitalize on the political upheaval. Recent reports indicate that the Al-Qaeda linked militants took control of major areas across Anbar province, including the infamous city of Fallujah.
While the U.S. is no stranger to fundamentalist Sunni uprisings, Iran has their own history with the growing sectarian conflict, being the epicenter of Shiite Muslims in the region. Sectarian conflicts in Iran have plagued much of Iran’s past, including the Iran-Iraq war which left over 1.25 million people dead, one of the deadliest conflicts since World War II.
After the war, Iran and Iraq volleyed for influence over the region, supporting their own range of Sunni or Shiite causes. After the overthrow of Sadaam’s government in 2003 by American led forces, Iran had found a comfortable niche being one of the more powerful nations in the region. Iran;s growing influence has been upset by the growing Sunni insurgency which threatens to undo Iran’s progress.
Iran found a strong Shiite ally in Syria before the uprising in 2011, only to have that ally weakened as a result of the conflict. The spillover from the violence in Syria into neighboring Iraq and other areas poses even more problems for Iran as they seek to protect their influence in the region.
The problem has become such an issue that Iran has offered to join the U.S. in aiding Baghdad’s Shiite government in the form of military equipment in hopes of battling back the gun toting militants.
The growing closeness between Iran and the U.S., traditional nemesis, is producing an inadvertent benefit to the growing crisis around the region. Still, observers say no matter what benefits arise from the conflict, movements must be made by the able parties to stem the spillover from this bloody conflict.
Secretary of State John Kerry briefly mentioned that after what is happening in the Middle East, Iran may be invited to take part in the upcoming peace conference on Syria, despite the conference’s intent on dismissing the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a huge ally with Iran.
So while talks continue in Geneva over Iran’s nuclear program march on, dual conversations over Sunni militants encroaching on American and Iranian influence are being exchanged. Top officials say that there is much room for Iran and the U.S. to work together to resolve the issue, while some analysts say past transgressions between the two nations may prevent an effective military alliance between Iran and the U.S. against the Sunni militants.
Relations between the two countries began early last year when a series of secret talks in Oman and Geneva laid the foundation for the rekindling of relations. It was more than three decades ago when the western backed Shah was overthrown in a violent coup and Iranian students took hostage American diplomats for over a year and a half.
So could this possibly be the future of an American-Iranian alliance? Most likely not say observers, but the mutual enemy does provide a potential groundwork for further cooperation between the two nations.
by John Amaruso