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UNUSUAL ALLIANCES: Iran 'backs US military contacts' to fight Islamic State

UNUSUAL ALLIANCES: Iran 'backs US military contacts' to fight Islamic State

Iran's Supreme Leader, has reportedly approved co-operation with the United States as part of the ongoing fight against the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

According to the BBC, Ayatollah Khamenei has authorised his top commander to co-ordinate military operations with the US, Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Iran has traditionally opposed US involvement in Iraq, which is an Iranian ally. However, Iran – which is predominantly Shia, sees the extremist IS group – which is Sunni and views Shias as heretics, as a serious threat.

Now, Iran seems to have taken steps to work closer with the United States, says BBC Persian's Kasra Naji.

Sources say Ayatollah Khamenei has sanctioned Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force - an elite overseas unit of the Revolutionary Guards - to work with forces fighting IS, including the US.

Last month US air strikes helped Iranian-backed Shia militia and Kurdish forces break a two-month siege by Islamic State of the Shia town of Amerli.

IS has overran swathes of northern and western Iraq and eastern Syria in recent months.

It is not yet clear whether the US will again forge an alliance with the Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria to dislodge IS in the northern parts of that country.

Assad has been pitching the West to join him in an anti-IS pact. Assad's argument since the start of the conflict in 2011 has been that he is a bulwark of stability, the only barrier to an al-Qaida takeover.

However, the West has previously supported rebels trying to topple the Assad regime. The only problem is that most of the rebel forces have either been defeated by IS – and the weapons they got from the West are now being used by IS in Iraq and Syria, or are still squabbling amongst themselves. 

The irony in a US-Iran allaince will that US ally Israel is Iran's enemy.

Photo caption: Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei. Image: gdb.rferl.g.