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Mahmoud Yamak

Fighting the Islamic State and ignoring the Islamic Republic

Iran backs Assad regime in Syria and sectarian militias in Iraq (Getty)

Date of publication: 4 August, 2015

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The Turkish involvement against IS signals an almost international consensus against one Islamic state while another "Islamic state" in the region, Iran, is left unaccountable, argues Mahmoud Yamak.

Turkey has officially entered the fray. Recently, Ankara has decided on a U-turn in its policy of keeping its Incirlik base neutral in the US-led war against the Islamic State (IS).

The decision was taken after several terrorist attacks hit Turkey on the borders with Syria. US warplanes and other coalition states are now able to use this strategic base to target various positions used by IS.

The un-Islamic State

Turkey's military involvement in the war on IS paves the way for a regional and universal consensus on the need to contain the rise of IS. 

Syria's main rebel group, Ahrar al-Sham, highlights the need for this consensus through their spokesperson's op-eds in The Washington Post and The Telegraph.

Mainstream Muslim scholars have repeatedly condemned IS and showed willingness, despite the limited resources, to counter IS narrative by utilising various social and politics strategy. 

IS lacks the theological grounding it claims to embody. In reality, it lures potential supporters mainly through political argumentation that is decorated in theological misinterpretations. In that sense, the Islamic State is anything but Islamic.

This is agreed upon by Muslim scholars as well as politicians from across the world.

What about the Islamic Republic?  

While the West vigorously chases IS militarily and politically, another Islamic state is overshadowed. Domestically, the Islamic Republic of Iran has executed nearly 700 people in the first half of this year.

     Turkey's military involvement in the war on IS paves the way for a regional and universal consensus on the need to contain the rise of IS.


Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International, said that "Iran’s staggering execution toll for the first half of this year paints a sinister picture of the machinery of the state carrying out premeditated, judicially-sanctioned killings on a mass scale".

The Islamic Republic of Iran exports its terror squads just like IS. For instance, the National Defence Forces (NDF), an Alawite-dominated armed group, was restructed and heavily financed by Iran to serve its war in Syria.

In fact, the first beheading documented in Syria was not carried out by IS. Instead, it was carried out by Iran-backed NDF in Houla massacre.

In many instances, certain NDF brigades are led by Iranian generals, as documented by the BBC in 2013.  

Several other Iran-backed militias occupy large swaths of Syrian land in a fashion not so different from IS. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians were displaced as sectarian banners covered their mosques and their streets.

Iran's role in Iraq

Since the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq, Iran played a crucial role in empowering sectarian Shia parties and marginalising Iraq's Sunni community.

     Domestically, the Islamic Republic of Iran has executed nearly 700 people in the first half of this year.


In doing so, the sectarian tensions were institutionalised under the consent of the West. After planting the seeds of extremism, Iran-backed armed groups run wild in Iraq committing atrocities.

The Badr Brigades, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and Kataeb Hizballah have allegedly pursued a kill-by-identity policy in which they slaughtered scores of Sunni civilians in areas of conflict with IS, according to Amnesty International.

As gruesome as IS burning of the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kasasbeh, members of Iran-backed militias in Iraq have burned men from different sects, mainly Sunnis.

As many analysts, as well as Syrian rebels claim, IS survival hinges on Iran's sectarian policies in the region. Having said that, any unanimity reached against IS that does not acknowledge and include Iran's unccountable brutality and extremism is counter-productive.

It is about time the West realises that despite its interests with Iran, the Islamic Republic is at the heart of the problem rather than the solution.




Mahmoud Yamak is an MSc student in petroleum engineering at Texas A&M University, with an interest in geopolitics. He previously wrote for The Daily Sabah, Palestine Chronicle, among others.


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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