Harry Saville is a Deputy Chairman of Aberconwy Conservative Association and interns with a Member of Parliament.

We should greet Iran’s recent airstrikes against Islamic State with caution rather than glee.  No one would dispute the threat posed to the UK by ISIS.  Indeed, in the short term ISIS perhaps represents a more immediate threat than Iran.  When John Kerry claimed that any Iranian strikes against IS were “positive” he was right in as much as they will further degrade ISIS’ capabilities without expending coalition resources.  However, it is important that we remember what Iran’s real motives are in the fight against ISIS and in respect of the wider Middle East.

Iran’s strategic goal is to emerge as the regional hegemon, [1] imposing its Shia-inspired Islamofascist agenda, complete with widespread human rights abuses, on its neighbours (as opposed to ISIS’ Sunni-inspired Islamofascist agenda).

However, defeating its rival in Islamofascism in only one part of Iran’s agenda for the Middle East.  Iran has flouted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and failed to allay the concerns of the international community regarding its nuclear weapons programme. [2]  Such a military capability could shield Iran whilst it advances its goals at the expense of the UK and our global and regional allies.  Despite ongoing diplomatic efforts to encourage Iran to forego its capabilities to develop a nuclear weapons programme, Israel and Saudi Arabia are still gravely concerned.

Meanwhile, Iran has a proven track record as a state sponsor of international terrorism.  Hezbollah has long been recognised as an Iranian terror puppet, doing Iran’s bidding by proxy.  Its campaign of terror knows no bounds, even going as far as to carry out a terror attack in Bulgaria, one of our NATO allies.  Iran is a close supporter of Hamas, supplying it with the equipment it needs to prosecute its campaign of terror against Israel.  After the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq it armed and funded the Taliban and Shia militias fighting British forces.  Even more brazenly, Iranian forces illegally kidnapped 15 Royal Navy personnel in 2007.  How can we ever hope to treat Iran as a reliable, trustworthy partner?

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, Iran has precious few regional allies.  However, it does find support in both Iraq (until recently lead by the Shia sectarian government of Nouri al-Maliki) and Syria (Iran’s only consistent ally since the 1979 revolution).  It is clearly in Iran’s interest to protect its two closest regional allies from collapse.  Its forces are engaged in the struggle against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria.  Iranian intervention can take credit for saving the regime of Bashar al-Assad.  By threatening Iran’s only regional allies and championing its own Sunni-inspired Islamofascist agenda for the Middle East, ISIS challenges the Iranian pursuit of a new vision for the Middle East.

We are fighting ISIS to bolster Middle Eastern stability, to mitigate the worst effects of its campaigns of religious and ethnic cleansing and to deny those who seek to do the UK harm a safe haven to train and from which to plan their attacks.  Iran is fighting ISIS to remove a challenge to its ultimate goal of overturning the current regional order in the Middle East, subjugating UK interests and allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia to the process.

Realistically, the conflict between ISIS and Iran is one between two competing Islamofascist movements.  Working with Iran to deal with ISIS may be the right tactical decision to make in the short term.  However, looking forward we must remember despite our shared military adversary in ISIS, Iran remains a real threat to both our interests and our allies throughout the Middle East.

[1] Kagan, R.  The Return of History and the End of Dreams  London, Atlantic Books, 2009   p.47

[2] Bebb, G.,  Clappison, J.,  Ellis, M.,  Haflon, R.,  Percy, A.,  Wharton, J.  Iran’s Nuclear Programme  Securing A Permanent And Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement  Conservative Friends of Israel, London, 2014  p.8

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