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Iran Warns Of 'Serious Contradictions' In U.S. Anti-IS Policies

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian (file photo)

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian (file photo)

The Iranian media, both in Persian and English, has made much of remarks by Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who said that Tehran mistrusts the intentions of the United States in Syria and the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Abdollahian said Iran sees "serious contradictions" in how the United States and its allies are approaching the "war on terrorism and Islamic State," Iranian media reported on November 2.

The Iranian deputy foreign minister made his remarks in a meeting with the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Director General for Political Affairs, Tsukasa Yomura, who is on an official visit to Tehran.

Abdollahian went on to say that the United States and its allies "apparently do not intend to learn from their repeated mistakes in the past," a reference to the accusation by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that Al-Qaeda and the Taliban were Western creations, intended to act as a counterweight to Iranian power in the Middle East.

Although both Iran and the United States oppose IS, Tehran -- which alongside Moscow is Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad's strongest ally -- has staunchly opposed the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition. While Moscow's opposition to the coalition has focused on criticisms that it is acting outside of international bodies, particularly the UN Security Council, and without the consent of the Assad government, Tehran has accused the United States of using the alliance against IS as an excuse to gain power in the region. Some of the Iranian media have veered into the realm of conspiracy theory with these accusations --the Defa Press news agency, which is associated with the Iranian military, ran a story on November 3 suggesting that Washington was using its attacks on IS as an excuse to destroy Syria's oilfields.‫

In his latest comments, Abdollahian echoed the stance of both Moscow and Damascus on the Syria issue, conflating the IS threat and the armed insurgency against the Assad government. The only way to resolve the Syrian crisis, he said, was to "assume a real, serious fighting stance against terrorism, sending international ‬aid, making endeavors to help misplaced citizens settle back into their country, and respecting the people's decisions and the territorial integrity of Syria."

Both Moscow and Damascus have couched the Syrian crisis in terms of a war on terror against the armed insurgency.

Via its state media, Damascus has emphasized that its army is fighting "terrorists" -- both from IS and other groups -- across Syria, while expressing the territorial and national unity of the Syrian people in the face of this "international" terrorist threat.

On November 2, Syria's Information Minister, Omran al-Zoubi, also insisted that the way to solve the Syrian crisis was via unity.

More than ever, the Syrians are committed to their national identity and their will to live overrides the culture of death that terrorists seek to propagate," Al-Zoubi was quoted as saying by the state news outlet SANA.

Damascus has also portrayed the efforts of the U.S.-led coalition as attempts to undermine the Assad government and Syrian sovereignty.

In a similar vein, Zoubi criticized a recent decision by Turkey to allow Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces to cross its territory into Syria to assist in the fight against IS in Kobani, saying that Ankara was "the bearer of Ottoman thought" -- in other words, that the Turkish government had imperialist ambitions.

-- Joanna Paraszczuk

About This Blog

"Under The Black Flag" provides news, opinion, and analysis about the impact of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, Iraq, and beyond. It focuses not only on the fight against terrorist groups in the Middle East, but also on the implications for the region and the world. The blog's primary author, James Miller, closely covered the first three years of the Arab Spring, with a focus on Syria, and is now the managing editor of The Interpreter, where he covers Russia's foreign and domestic policy and the Kremlin's wars in Syria and Ukraine. Follow him on Twitter: @Millermena