News / Middle East

Iran, Saudi Arabia Face Common Threat in Islamic State

Iran, Saudi Arabia Face Common Threat in Islamic Statei
X
Scott Stearns
September 04, 2014 8:51 PM
Saudi Arabia will be a big part of the Obama administration's push for an international coalition to fight the Islamic State extremist group. Iran is already in that fight, backing a new government in Baghdad and helping arm the Kurds. So how does Washington balance long-standing mistrust between Tehran and Riyadh with Iran's informal cooperation against the Islamic State. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

Saudi Arabia will be a big part of the Obama administration's push for an international coalition to fight the Islamic State extremist group. Iran is already in that fight, backing a new government in Baghdad and helping arm the Kurds.

So how does Washington balance long-standing mistrust between Tehran and Riyadh with Iran's informal cooperation against the Islamic State? 

In the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq, it is U.S. airstrikes that are backing advances by Kurdish forces.

But the president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, says it is Tehran that is helping Kurds on the ground.

"We asked our friends to arm our forces and send us weapons, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was the first country that provided us with the required weapons," he said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif says Tehran is open to working on a broader approach to confronting the Islamic State group.

"We are prepared to talk at the international level with other countries and with the international community as a whole with regard to what is needed to be done in Iraq and in Syria and in this region," Zarif said.

With U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry building an international coalition against the Islamic State, Iran's involvement in that fight, even outside a formal coalition, could be a problem for Washington, says former U.S. ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker.

"I think it could drive the Iraqi Sunnis completely the wrong way - I think it could create serious problems in our relations with Egypt, with Saudi Arabia, with other Gulf states at a time when we all need to coordinate much more closely again against a common threat," he said.

U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann says it is the gravity of that threat that makes for unlikely alliances.

"Iran and Saudi Arabia are bitter adversaries around most issues and yet find themselves forced to consider the possibility of collaborating against an enemy that has expanded its territory of operation dramatically in the last two months," he said.

The advance raises prospects for such collaboration, says Georgetown University professor Nora Bensahel.

"We are probably unlikely to see the United State trumpeting cooperation with Iran, for example or the Saudis trumpeting cooperation with Iran. But it may lead to quieter, behind-the-scenes, increased intelligence-sharing, those types of things in order to address what is largely seen as a common threat despite other interests that may be very, very strongly opposed," said Bensahel.

Which is why Arab Gulf states may set aside their differences with Iran, says American University professor Akbar Ahmed.

"It makes sense. It's a very tribal configuration. This is how tribes and clans operate when they face a common threat," he said. "They unite for the time being, and perhaps they will continue their rivalry in other forms and at other times."

Ahmed says one of the clearest signs of a Saudi-Iranian detente is the enthusiasm with which Riyadh welcomed the new government in Baghdad - still led by Shi'ites backed by Iran but promising to be more inclusive of Iraqi Sunni and Kurds.

You May Like

Gun Nation

This is who America's gun owners are More

US Border Patrol Union Accused of Taking Sides on Immigration

Report alleges agents leaking info to immigration opponents, appearing at their private events; Center for Immigration Studies director defends agents' actions More

Video Rights Monitor: Hate Groups' Use of Internet to Inflame, Recruit Growing

Wiesenthal Center's Abraham Cooper says extremists have become skilled at celebrating violence, ideology on Web More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs