Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif gestures during an open debate in Munich, February 8, 2015.
Michael Dalder / Courtesy Reuters

U.S. President Barak Obama has set a difficult goal in the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). “Our coalition isn’t just going to degrade this barbarous terrorist organization,” he said in mid-December, “we’re going to destroy it.” He reiterated this goal after ISIS’ killing of the Jordanian pilot Moath al-Kasasbeh. But to achieve that goal, he will need to bring Iran on board, especially in the Syrian peace talks.

The ISIS crisis is so complex because it links ideological and geopolitical conflicts across the region. The terrorist group, a non-state actor seeking to create an Islamic caliphate, is anti-nationalist, anti-state, and, indeed, against any known political borders whatsoever. It capitalizes on tensions in Iraq and Syria between Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds and, more broadly, between Iran, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. This strategy has allowed ISIS to stay alive. And the U.S.-led

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  • KAYHAN BARZEGAR is Director of the Institute for Middle East Strategic Studies and Chair of the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Science and Research Branch of the Islamic Azad University in Tehran.
  • More By Kayhan Barzegar