Following weeks of increasingly harsh criticism of the U.S.-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria, in the past few days Iran has begun to emphasize its role in helping Iraq battle IS militants.
Part of this narrative has been to stress Iran's close relationship with Baghdad, and its willingness to cooperate with other countries in the region, including against IS.
Although Iran is opposed to IS, Tehran has not only refused to join the U.S.-led international coalition against the militant group, but has slammed Washington's actions in Iraq and Syria and accused the United States of creating IS in the first place. In setting out its position regarding combating IS in Iraq, Iran has contrasted its role with what it says is self-interested interference by the United States and its allies in the region.
Among the senior Iranian figures pushing this line is the chairman of Iran's Expediency Council and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who spoke of the "Islamic unity" between Tehran and Baghdad in an October 22 meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.
Rafsanjani said that Muslim countries must not waste their resources on "baseless disputes," according to Iran's state news agency IRNA.
The former Iranian president said that Iraq should do its best to ensure national unity among its Sunni and Shi'a population as well as Iraqi Kurds and Turkomans. Iran has previously accused the West of creating IS to create divisions between Sunni and Shi'a Muslims.
Continuing with the concept that IS is a foreign creation, IRNA quoted al-Abadi as saying that IS militants consist of "a combination of Asian, European, and American extremists" who perpetrate "crimes of humanity" in Iraq.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has also emphasized Iran's support for Iraq in the fight against IS, suggesting that this support is in contrast to that provided by the United States and its allies. Following a recent meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister al-Abadi on October 21, Khamenei’s office tweeted the following remarks:
Iran's minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Ali Jannati, went further than merely emphasizing Iran's support for Iraq over IS. According to Iran's Fars News, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Jannati said that had Iran not provided support to Iraq, the "foreign-backed" IS would have overrun the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, by now.
Jannati said that the international coalition, which had "supported terrorism and extremism in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria" would fail in their attempts to combat IS in Iraq, just as they had failed to topple Iran's ally, Bashar al-Assad in Syria.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk