Iranian President Hassan Rouhani scorned the international coalition organized by the United States to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in an interview with NBC News on Wednesday.
Rouhani called the mission “ridiculous” and said that without a commitment to send ground troops into battle against the rapidly spreading terrorist force, the project would fail.
“Are Americans afraid of giving casualties on the ground in Iraq?” he asked. “Are they afraid of their soldiers being killed in the fight they claim is against terrorism?”
That same day U.S. President Barack Obama told reporters in a briefing at MacDill Air Force Base, “American forces that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.”
Nor has the United States requested combat troops from any nation in the anti-ISIS coalition.
There is more than one complication in placing troops on the ground in such a conflict. Historically, Iran was suspected of targeting American troops during the previous Iraq War, although the Tehran government denied direct involvement in any battles.
But Rouhani commented that air strikes alone would not suffice to wipe out the Al Qaeda-spawned terrorist organization, which even Al Qaeda itself now denounces as “too extreme.” Other Muslims are hurrying to distance themselves from the group as well, declaring that ISIS has “nothing to do with Islam.”
“If they want to use planes and if they want to use unmanned planes so that nobody is injured from the Americans, is it really possible to fight terrorism without any hardship, without any sacrifice? Is it possible to reach a big goal without that? In all regional and international issues, the victorious one is the one who is ready to do sacrifice,” Rouhani told journalist Ann Curry.
Iran, meanwhile, has been directly involved in Syria’s civil war from the start, having sent its elite Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards force to supplement the troops of President Bashar al-Assad in the fight against opposition forces. Iran also recruited the aid of the Lebanon-based Hezbollah terrorist guerrilla fighters – which Tehran generously patronizes – to come to Assad’s assistance. Iran has long been a generous backer of the Syrian government as well; the two nations have done business for many years.
Rouhani told NBC News that any campaign to conduct air strikes against ISIS in Syria would require the permission of the Syrian government, which is supported by Iran and Russia. Any action in Syria without Assad’s permission, he said, would constitute a violation of international law and an act of aggression. Moscow has expressed similar views.
But the U.S. is unwilling to collaborate with Iran or Syria in a fight against ISIS. And nearly half the battle against the global terror group is rapidly moving over to Syria.
However, the U.S. House of Representatives has just voted 273-156 to back Obama’s request to train, equip and arm the “moderate” rebels in the Syrian opposition forces. The U.S. is hoping these rebel forces will fight against ISIS.