THE BLOG
10/30/2014 02:21 pm ET Updated Dec 30, 2014

ISIS and U.S.-Iran Relations

It is often said that politics makes for strange bedfellows. The truth of this aphorism has been illustrated by the ostensible warming of U.S. relations with Iran. The two countries have been at daggers drawn with each other for more than four decades. The Iranian nuclear program was another toxic issue between the two sides, which still remains unresolved. Given the long history of mutual suspicion, it is intriguing that the advance of ISIS, in Syria and Iraq, is persuading both Washington and Tehran to move closer to each other. According to Vali Nasr, dean of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, and former Obama administration official, "...although we see Turkey and Arab states as our closest allies, our interests and policies are converging with Iran's." Two countries that are likely to be more than unhappy with this turn of events are Saudi Arabia and Israel. However, the United States will be able to withstand their ire, because at this stage defeating ISIS is a major foreign policy preoccupation.

Another sign of the tacit understanding, which is developing between the United States and Iran, is the fact reported by the Wall Street Journal that the elite Iranian Revolutionary Guard has "explicitly ordered its local proxies not to target American military personnel conducting and coordinating attacks against Islamic State from bases around Baghdad and Iraq's Kurdish region." Also, according to the same newspaper, it's interesting to note, that the U.S. has indicated to Tehran that its "stepped-up military strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria won't be turned on forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, according to U.S. officials."

This incipient détente may also positively affect the nuclear negotiations between the two countries. Both of them need each other, and therefore both are likely to make the necessary concessions, which would enable the signing of a nuclear agreement. President Obama is also keen that he should leave office with an historic reconciliation achieved with Iran. Perhaps the stars are finally in alignment regarding U.S.-Iran relations in their common effort to defeat what they consider the ISIS menace.