Toward a New Order in the Middle East: The Strange US-Iran “Virtual Alliance”

It has been confirmed for the first time that Iran, the large Shiite country neighboring Iraq, has deployed fighter jets in a search-and-destroy mission against the Islamic State, the Islamic Sunni extremist group that extends its influence across the Middle East.

Late last month, the aerial bombing of eastern Iraq’s Diyala Province by government troops was revealed by chance by a video transmitted from a Middle Eastern satellite television station. Iran denied it at first, stressing that there was no coordination with the U.S. government, which has acknowledged the truth.

The U.S. confirmed one aircraft, a McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jet retained by Iran after the 1979 Islamic revolution that overthrew the Pahlavi regime.

A British military expert expressed his somewhat amazed impression to the U.K. press, stating that Iran, a nation under sanctions, “is one of the best in the world in keeping old aircraft airworthy.”

There is a reason Iran’s out-of-date fighter jets have caused widespread repercussions.

Antagonism between the U.S. and Iran has spanned more than 30 years since the revolution. In June of this year, however, the Islamic State group took control of Mosul in northwestern Iraq. As crisis approached, Iran set out to support Iraq first and foremost, and the U.S. began airstrikes against the Islamic State group in August as well. The U.S. and Iran currently bear a strange “virtual alliance” relationship.

Nevertheless, the notion that they are “partners behind the scenes” causes a complex problem.

Iran has hardline anti-Americans within the country, and the U.S. is receiving the cooperation of various Sunni Arab countries in the Gulf Coast — including Saudi Arabia, which is keeping a vigilant eye on Iran’s geopolitical expansion of influence — at the front lines of its Islamic State group search-and-destroy mission in Syria. It could alienate Gulf Coast nations if the U.S. were to explicitly lean toward Iran, and front lines in Syria could collapse. Not to mention Iran is having a difficult time with negotiations over its nuclear development program and is well aware of its vulnerability.

The path toward annihilation of the Islamic State group is far, and the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation between the U.S., Iran and other Gulf Arab nations will continue for a while. On the other hand, if their common enemy disappears, they will be back at square one. To see that does not happen, seeking a new Middle East order could be a starting point.

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