Two states in the region were not invited to officially join the regional Arab international alliance to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), namely Iran and Israel. The United States was most likely behind the decision to exclude the two states, but of course by virtue of a previous agreement with both of them, based on the Unites States' past decision to exclude both countries – in agreement with their leaderships – during the war on Afghanistan, and later in the war on Iraq (2001 and 2003). It is striking that the US has decided, for the second time, to exclude the two states that gain the most from its wars in the region.
The United States was afraid to officially invite Iran to its current alliance and the ongoing war in order for the US not to appear to the Arab, Islamic, American, and European public opinion to be in a military alliance with Iran, which the US still refers to in hostile terms, in one way or another, especially due to the disputes over its nuclear programme and its support of Bashar Al-Assad's regime. The US also feared the effects its invitation to Iran would have on the positions of some Arab states, especially the Gulf, that are already worried about the unofficial alliance and coordination between the US and Iran.
In addition to this, Iran's participation in this war would be an announcement to mobilise the Sunni citizens in the region against the alliance that will appear to be sectarian and against the Sunnis in light of the hostile environment in Iran due to its criminal acts in the two countries that will be bombed (Iraq and Syria). It has been said that the air force will be serving the actions on the ground that Iran's militias will be carrying out.
As for Israel, the US was afraid to involve it in this regional Arab international coalition to wage war on ISIS for the same reasons it refused to officially include Israel in the war on Iraq and Afghanistan during the alliance formed during George Bush's presidency. Including Israel in an official alliance with Arab countries would put its leaders in a difficult situation in the eyes of its citizens who consider Israel to be a country that has seized Arab and Palestinian land, or because the Arab and Islamic public opinion would reject such an alliance before it would even start, and ISIS would seem to be fighting the enemy of the entire nation who kills its people, i.e. Israel.
In addition to this, the previous experience of forming an alliance for the war on terror during Bush's administration has proven that Iran and Israel, which have been officially excluded from participating in the war alliance, not only benefitted from the war, but also participated in it. The war on Afghanistan and Iraq ended with two winners; Iran and Israel, and no other states, not even the US itself. The blow dealt to the Iraqi army was a victory for the two states without their soldiers having to fire a single shot. The door was open for the growth of Iran's role and its influence and control in the region, as well as its control over Iraq, which was "liberated" by the US forces.
It was over for the national Iraqi army which was a constant concern for Israel in the balance of power with the Arabs. The reports from the Israeli and Iranian sides have proven that they shared roles and interests in the post-occupation period inside Iraq without much dispute. This was their reward for unofficially participating in the wars. (Iran has officially admitted to participating in the war.)
In the current war, things seem to be the same, albeit a few small changes here and there in the language used to express embarrassment. If anything has changed, it is that the war on terror is occurring directly in the region and it is targeting all the heads of the national Sunni resistance. This means that Israel and Iran are in the heart of the battle in a more comprehensive manner, as Iran is greatly hostile towards ISIS and all the national Sunni resistance, and is actually fighting a war against them, killing unequivocally based on sect.
Iran is already in the war and is not waiting for the alliance, and the fact that it is not officially a part of the alliance will not stop it. It is better for it to work secretly with the alliance while openly playing the game of washing its hands of its alliance with America and Israel.
On the other hand, Israel is also engaged in the conflict, not only against ISIS, as it has tried to link ISIS and Hamas, but in a historical war against the Sunni Arabs.
Translated from Al-Sharq newspaper, 18 September, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.