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Iran-U.S. Relationship Over ISIS: It's Complicated

Despite a common cause, Iran and the Western coalition fighting ISIS have yet to work out their problems and coordinate efforts.
Posted at 7:48 PM, Sep 27, 2014

ISIS has made no secret of its disdain for anyone other than the followers of its own austere sect of Islam and it's threatened everyone from Canadians at large to Twitter employees. (Video via YouTube / ولاية الرقة)

But while the West has organized a coalition of 60 plus nations to fight the terror group, one international player has been sending mixed signals on how far they're willing to go against the jihadist threat. (Video via Department of Defense)

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addressed the dire situation so close to his country at the annual United Nations General Assembly Thursday. There he denounced ISIS and called for international cooperation to combat them.

But there already is international cooperation fighting ISIS, so why is Iran calling for it now? Well, the relationship between Iran and the West over ISIS has been complicated, to say the least.

A day before he spoke at the General Assembly, Rouhani criticized the U.S. for carrying out airstrikes in Syria, saying they were done illegally since Syria’s President Bashar Al-Assad had not approved them.

Throughout the Syrian conflict, Iran has remained a staunch supporter of Assad’s regime, which they see as a strategic ally in the Middle East.

And Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, took a shot at the West’s efforts Wednesday. Zarif called the U.S.-led coalition a “Coalition of Repenters,” accusing the U.S. and its allies of helping create ISIS through 2003's invasion of Iraq.

It’s not that Iran isn’t interested in fighting ISIS. They are. In fact, Iran has already helped Iraqi soldiers in the past with Iranian-trained Shiite militias.

A writer at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty described it as a “Coalition of One”, writing that Iran’s “Shi'ite militias are so much part of the fight against Islamic State that the question for the international coalition now will be how to react not if, but when, the two sides find themselves on the same battlefield.

But Iran’s “Coalition of One” might not be a permanent fixture.

Following up his call for international cooperation against ISIS at the General Assembly, Rouhani hinted that if the West were to give Iran some concessions in its nuclear program talks, then it might be able to cooperate against ISIS.

A day later, Rouhani made another optimistic remark with Al Jazeera quoting the Iranian president as saying “It is not written in stone that the relationship between Iran and the U.S. must be hostile forever. One day this will change.”

The U.S. and Iran haven’t held diplomatic ties since 1979, after Iran overthrew a U.S.-backed leader and took American hostages.

This video includes images from Getty Images.