IRAN AND DAISH: A CAUSE TO AGREE ON?

This is the first in a series of posts to come out of the Regional Security Research Centre (RSRC) organised Round Table titled ‘Decoding IS [DAISH] – Retrospect and Prospect’, which took place on 8 February 2016. The Round Table covered issues concerned with the evolution, regional linkages, strategy and tactics, as well as the future prospects of IS [DAISH].

By DR AMIR M KAMEL

The continued existence of Dawlat al Islamiyah fy al Iraq we al Sham (DAISH) – aka Islamic State (IS), the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, (ISIL), in the Middle East, as well as its inspired-actions outside of the region, has led to the group climbing the international security priority list. The persistence and expansion (in the sense that it also inspires ‘out of area’ attacks from California to Paris), has led to calls for a more concerted effort by the international community to include as many actors as possible in the fight against DAISH. These calls have also included the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI).

As I noted in a previous post, titled Iran’s Response to DAISH: It’s All About the Revolution, the IRI has an acute concern over safeguarding its thirty-seven year old revolutionary regime. Indeed, the Ayatollah, Ali Khamenei, is a firm figure in Iran’s political structure. The knock-on effect of this, is of course, maintaining a powerful regional stance, something which has been particularly resisted by fellow regional power, Saudi Arabia. There are however incentives on all sides at the prospect of cooperating in the fight against DAISH.

Indeed, the signs of cooperation with the anti-DAISH coalition were evident in July 2015 when Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed Zarif noted: ‘The menace we’re facing, and I say we, because no-one is spared, is embodied by the hooded men who are ravaging the cradle of civilisation. To deal with this new challenge, new approaches are badly needed’. This proclamation came before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which was implemented in January 2016 under the condition that Iran scale back its nuclear programme in return for alleviated sanctions. The support provided by Iran’s various military branches (including the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, IRGC) in Syria and Iraq demonstrates the seriousness of the DAISH threat.

There are however concerns over increased Iranian involvement in the region, particularly in the context of the Saudi Arabia-Iran battle for regional supremacy. That being said, it is clear that eliminating the DAISH threat is conducive to regional and international interests, and therefore the pragmatic approach by the anti-DAISH coalition to include more members (even those which are wearily regarded), is the most feasible way to eradicate the terrorist organisation. This means, that whilst the short-run may involve some rather uncomfortable bedfellows, and a wariness over how much influence such inclusion will alter the power dynamic in the medium and longer terms. The DAISH threat is evidently potent and imminent enough to warrant a cause to unify on and fight against.

Image: Grand Ayatollah Seyyid Ali Khamenei, with his predecessor Sayyid Ruhollah Mūsavi Khomeini’s image in the background, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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