These criticisms were evidently aimed at using the ISIS situation to try to force a Western change of policy in Syria – something that Iran and Russia have already been working towards. Zarif accused the US of being out of touch with reality by virtue of attempting to maintain pressure on the Assad regime while also attacking ISIS positions in Syria.
In effect, the Iranian regime appears to be urging the United States to adopt the Iranian strategy against ISIS, while Iran refuses the US’s coalition building approach. Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty points out that Iran is operating unilaterally inside Iraq at the same time that the US is beginning operations that utilize resources from nearly 40 allied countries.
While US air support is certainly helping Iran in that conflict, the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani has deliberately disregarded the American role, claiming victory in Amerli and elsewhere for Iranian and Iraqi forces alone. Furthermore, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei very publicly claimed to have refused an unspecified American offer of collaboration in Iraq.
An article at Business Insider considers this apparent refusal and finds it to be somewhat difficult to explain. As a superpower and the head of an international coalition in this instance, it is understandable why the United States would claim to have no interest in coordinating militarily with Iran. But it is less natural for Iran to refuse additional help when apparently threatened on its western border.
The article entertains two possible explanations for this Iranian position. One is that cooperation with the United States would undermine Iran’s revolutionary raison d’etre, since the Islamic Republic has spent its entire history working to be the leading anti-American voice in the region. The other possibility is that simply fears the presence of a new US military buildup in the region, more than it fears the presence of ISIS, which is likely to remain a more manageable threat and one that actually justifies continued Iranian influence in Iraq.
Although one may be more manageable, ISIS and the US are both threats to the Iranian regime, and this makes Iranian calculations in Iraq distinctly complicated. An article at Project Syndicate looks at these calculations and finds that there are Iranian voices against an interventionist policy in Iraq. While most of the Iranian power structure is fixated on using the Quds Force and Shiite militias to preserve Iranian influence, some may be starting to worry that by exacerbating sectarian conflict, Iran will cause that to spill over its own borders, further damaging the regime’s internal security