The Iranian propaganda network Press TV published an article on Wednesday reiterating a familiar Iranian conspiracy theory about the Sunni militant group ISIS having been manufactured by the United States and Israel in order to create discord and undermine the Islamic Awakening. The article quoted Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, as saying that the growth of ISIS “provides a unique opportunity for the Zionist regime to mercilessly slaughter innocent Muslims.”
Shamkhani also appeared to deny the reality of Muslim sectarian conflict, asserting that ISIS does not actually believe in any faith and that the “hegemonic powers” are striving to undermine Muslim solidarity and destabilize the Middle East.
Apart from failing to account for how an unstable Middle East benefits nations with vested interests there, this narrative also patently ignores Iranian contributions to sectarian discord. Various observers of the situation in Iraq have recognized that it was Iranian Shiite influence there that brought about the rise of ISIS as a Sunni counterpoint to the exclusively Shiite government that came to take hold under Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Now, with ISIS ravaging Iraq, Tehran seems to be angling for the retention and expansion of its influence in the Baghdad government. The attempt to discredit US involvement there can be seen as an element of this strategy. Furthermore, there is new evidence for the economic dimensions of that strategy. Zawya reports that Iran is aiming to double its non-oil exports to Iraq.
Former Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qassemi told a joint Iran-Iraq trade conference on Tuesday that the potential exists for Iran to raise the value of Iran’s non-oil trade with Iraq to 30 billion dollars, which is more than three-fifths of the current total value of Iran’s non-oil exports. No doubt, if this outcome is feasible it would constitute a much closer entanglement between the two countries and a tremendous amount of Iraqi dependence upon the good graces of Iran.