Why doesn’t the U.S. help Iran fight ISIS?

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The European refugee crisis is due mainly to the Islamic State’s reign of terror in parts of Syria.

Bashar al-Assad is a ruthless dictator who will do whatever it takes to stay in power.  But his regime doesn’t mutilate and kill people because of their religion or lifestyle.   People of different religions and ethnicities have co-existed peacefully under his government.

This is not true of the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL or Da’esh).  Under their rule, you are not safe unless you are willing to live under their extreme and wrong ideas of what Islam was like in the days of Mohammad.

Since the surge of millions of refugees into Europe directly affects U.S. allies, and since ISIS is the direct cause of this crisis, why does the United States hesitate to join forces with the Iranian government, which is the main enemy of ISIS?

Gareth Porter, writing for Middle East Eye, has a good idea of the reasons:

US policy toward the Middle East has long been defined primarily not by threats originating in the region but by much more potent domestic political interests, both electoral and bureaucratic.

The power of the Israel lobby in Washington, primarily but not exclusively over Congress, is well known, and that has imposed a rigid political and legal framework of hostility toward Iran on the US government for two decades, beginning with a complete trade embargo that remains in place and creates major obstacles to any shift in policy.

What is seldom acknowledged, however, is that the interests of the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA have become tightly intertwined with those of the anti-Iran coalition in the Middle East.

A set of mutually reinforcing bureaucratic interests now binds US policy to an alliance structure and military and intelligence programmes in the Middle East that have come to replace objective analysis of regional realities in determining US policy.

The first is the imperative for the US military of holding on to US air, naval and land bases in the region, all but one of which are located in states that are part of the anti-Iran coalition.

iran-us-flagContinuing long-term control of those bases is the coin of the realm for US military institutions that trumps possible competing policy concerns.

Similarly, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the other Gulf sheikhdoms and Israel are a primary interest of the Pentagon, its arms contractor partners and its congressional allies.

And the determination of that same set of domestic interests to continue the bonanza or research-and-development spending on a missile defense system requires a continued identification of Iran as primary regional adversary and threat.

Finally, the US national security state has never given up its ambition to regain primary influence in Iraq, despite the political legacy of the Iraq war and a Shia-dominated regime in the country.  That quite unrealistic interest reduces still further the space for any cooperation with Iran in the region.

I thought the agreement President Obama made to lift United Nations sanctions against Iran might be the start of better relations between Washington and Tehran.  There is no fundamental conflict of interest betwen the two nations.

But evidently President Obama is more committed to Saudi Arabia, and its backing of Sunni fighters against Iranian-backed Shiite fighters throughout the region.   He pits the United States against ISIS and against the main enemies of ISIS, in the unrealistic hope that there is some third alternative.

LINK

Why the US and Iran aren’t cooperating against IS by Gareth Porter for Middle East Eye

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