During his visit to Tehran earlier this week, Iraqi President Fuad Masum noted that Iran was the first country to actively assist Baghdad in its war against ISIL. Commenting on the Iraqi president’s remarks, Iranian geopolitics experts explained to Sputnik Tehran’s many reasons for serving as a key player in the war against ISIL extremism.

In the course of his visit to the Iranian capital, President Masum pointed out in an interview for Iranian television that “Iran was the first government to offer Iraq real support in the fight against ISIL,” adding that Tehran continues to play “an important and leading role in the fight against terrorism in Iraq.” The president emphasized that “strategic cooperation in this area between our two countries will continue.”

Commenting on Masum’s statements, Iran Eurasia Research Institute analyst Reza Hojjat Shamami told Sputnik that Iran’s response to the ISIL-inspired crisis facing its neighbor has been entirely rational, given important geopolitical and religious factors. The expert noted that “geographical proximity, mutual geopolitical interests and above all, the religious commonalities of the Shiite populations of Iraq and Iran” are the main reasons “prompting Iraq to seek direct [Iranian] assistance in confronting the Islamic State terrorist group.”

Shamami noted that “Iraq is part of Iran’s strategic regional security thinking,” adding that for its part, “Iran will continue to offer its assistance in ensuring Iraq’s security.”

Shuaib Bahman, chief editor of the information and analysis portal IranianPolicy, disagreed somewhat with his colleague regarding the importance of religion in relations, telling Sputnik that “Iran is looking at the problem of the fight against the Islamic State on a much higher level than the issue of Sunni-Shia relations.” Bahman explained that Tehran’s main strategic goals as far as the conflict with ISIL is concerned are to preserve “peace and stability of our neighbors” and “the integrity of the Islamic world and the stability of the region as a whole.”Bahman noted that when it comes to the provision of military assistance to Iraq, its support for individual religious and ethnic groups, such as the Kurds, is aimed solely “toward the preservation of the country’s unity.” The expert emphasized that Iran’s assistance to Kurdish groups is aimed toward “strengthening the central government of its Middle Eastern neighbor and toward the development of cooperation with Baghdad.”

Iran Has Its Doubts About Western Coalition’s Air War

Speaking about the US-led Coalition’s air war against ISIL, Reza Shamami noted that his country has its doubts about the true aims of the operation. “Iran is very skeptical about the activities of the Western coalition against the Islamic State, and, above all, has doubts about the true aims of this coalition.” In Shamami’s view, as far as Iran is concerned, “it’s questionable whether the campaign’s aims are to destroy ISIL. Many among the coalition had supported the Islamic State in one way or another and were initially interested in seeing the terror group advance in the Middle East.”In the expert’s view, this policy was directed in large measure against Iran. “It is therefore unlikely that the position of our country on this matter will change.”

Commenting on whether Iran itself could join the US-led anti-ISIL coalition, Shamami noted that “if ISIL’s war in the region expands and comes to threaten catastrophic consequences, I do not rule out Iran’s cooperation with the international anti-terrorist mission. At the moment [however], the balance of forces is very different. Moreover, many countries within the coalition themselves strongly oppose Iran’s entry into its ranks.”

Iran’s Strategic Aims in War Against ISIL

According to Shuaib Bahman, Iran is among the key guarantors of stability and security in the Middle East. “Iran’s military policy is aimed at supporting its neighbors in the face of external threats. Our government aims at introducing a politics of consolidation and convergence among all the countries of the region, whether…Shiite [or] Sunni. We have vast military experience, and are ready to share it with our partners.”

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