Ahmad El Assaad/How making nice with Tehran boosts ISIS


How making nice with Tehran boosts ISIS
By Ahmad El Assaad/New York Post
February 8, 2015

Take it from me, a leader of a Lebanese political party and a Shia Muslim: The supposedly Shiite regime in Iran is a bully, and repeated failures to stand up to it play into the hands of Sunni extremists. Sunnis across the Middle East feel bullied by Tehran’s increasingly dominant role in the region, and angry as the world remains on the sidelines. This unfortunate reality is playing into the hands of radical groups like ISIS.

From Lebanon to Iraq to Syria and now Yemen, more countries are falling under the overwhelming influence, if not outright control, of the regime in Iran. Meanwhile, fanatical groups like ISIS point to the “Persian” and “Shia” expansion across the Middle East to win sympathy and to recruit more and more young fighters. The double standard of current US foreign policy is making things worse. The Obama administration wrongly thinks that there are “radicals to talk to,” like the regime in Iran, and “radicals that are a threat to the world” like ISIS. This naive distinction benefits all Sunni extremists.

One main reason ISIS has grown so powerful is that it represents a way for Sunni Arabs to regain their pride in response to the ever-increasing Shia dominance led by the regime in Iran.
The double standard of current US foreign policy is making things worse. And because Sunnis are the majority, you can’t wage effective war on ISIS while, at the same time, desperately trying to become friends with Tehran. Iran backs proxies from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Sadrists in Iraq to the Houthiyoun in Yemen.

These Shia radicals and ISIS are merely two sides of the same coin. As US forces saw after ousting Saddam Hussein in Iraq, extremism on one side feeds extremism on the other — a cycle of violence that extremists on both sides gladly feed. The Obama administration’s present schizophrenic policy only increases the popularity of ISIS among Sunnis. For every ISIS fighter killed by an air strike, there are at least 10 others ready to join. The only way out of this vicious cycle is to first weaken the Iranian regime in every way possible.

What’s needed is a consistent US policy toward both the Shia and the Sunni radicals. Groups like ISIS will continue to grow in popularity and power as long as the Sunnis in the region feel that the Iranian regime isn’t being held to the same standard as Sunni extremists. ***Ahmad El Assaad is the founder of Saving the Next Generation and the Lebanese Option Party, the opposition political party to Hezbollah in Lebanon.