Islamic State: Iranian Nuclear Threat and Syrian Civil War distracts region from fighting common threat
Complicating the situation, the Free Syrian Army is caught in the middle. While the victory of the Free Syrian Army over the Assad regime is largely in the interest of the Syrian People, Israel, and the West, Iran, Assad, and the Lebanese Hezbollah are at war with the Free Syrian Army as well as the Islamic State. As such, there is the temptation to sacrifice victory in the Syrian Civil War to achieve victory against the Islamic State.
One motivating factor behind embracing such a sacrifice would be the Obama Administration’s push for a nuclear deal with Iran. Preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons is in the interest of Israel, even though fears of an ineffective deal drive Israeli opposition. From the Iranian position, the entrenchment of Iranian influence throughout the region is one more benefit that can be derived from nuclear talks. From the Western and Israeli perspectives, it is another incentive to abandon renewed relations with Iran.
Meanwhile, it is also important to consider the regional power Saudi Arabia where the Sunni majority has a clear interest in undermining the spread of Iranian and Shiite influence. Unfortunately, Iran’s pursuit of regional dominance in a time when sectarian divisions and strife are realigning the region is only going to encourage sectarian violence across the Middle East. While Iran does not have to abandon the Assad regime, it does have to stop fighting the Free Syrian Army.
Furthermore, the refusal of Bashar al-Assad to relinquish power is what leaves Syria unable to effectively combat the Islamic State. Even if Assad manages to eventually subdue the Free Syrian Army, civil discontent will continue to undermine his ability to govern while his rule will only drive resentment against Iran and Lebanon.
If Assad were to transition his authority and the command of his armed forces to the Free Syrian Army, the Islamic State threat could be addressed and Iran would be in a position to gain regional influence as a regional power capable of implementing broadly supported solutions. Consequently, it is in the interest of all for the Assad regime to relinquish power, so the Islamic State can be addressed as the mutual threat it is.
The Islamic State is the common enemy of the Palestinians, Israelis, Syrians, and Iranians, yet they are far too busy fighting each other over unresolved grievances and deeply rooted grudges to defend against this far more destructive force.
For the Israelis and the Palestinians, choosing to overcome their never-ending war in order to fend off the brutality of the Islamic State, as well as other terrorist groups, and heal the divide between the two cultures is a necessity that the Israeli leadership has been reluctant to fully embrace and Hamas has actively sought to derail. If peace is not soon achieved, the Islamic State may well be too much for the warring Peoples to fend off.
The conflict between Iran and Israel, however, offers a few mutual benefits in terms of national security. Quite frankly, a war between Israel and the Islamic State is in the interest of Iran; whereas, the war between the Islamic State and the Assad regime is beneficial to Israel. Just as Iran’s support of insurgents helped bog down the United States in Iraq, the fight against the Islamic State strains Iran’s resources while undermining the Assad regime.
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