Thirty countries met in Paris yesterday at the invitation of the French president, Francois Hollande, to talk about the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Among them were the U.S., Russia, China, and the U.K. and several Arab countries but not Syria, one of the countries in which ISIS is operating, nor Iran, which borders Iraq and, as every country in the region, considers ISIS a national security threat.
Instead, the American and Iranian governments used the opportunity to exchange barbs. Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, claimed his government refused a "private request" from the U.S. to cooperate on ISIS. Iran already assists Iraq militarily, as does the U.S., and also assists the Syrian government in its ongoing civil war with ISIS and various other rebel groups.
The Syrian government, meanwhile, has insisted airstrikes in Syria without its permission would be a "big mistake," blaming the U.S. and its allies on helping to create ISIS. "Those who would like to fight terrorism cannot fight terrorism in Syria or in Iraq without coordinated actions with both governments and without a broader international coalition," Syria's deputy foreign minister said, according to the Tehran Times. "That should also take on board Russia, China, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and all other countries. You cannot fight terrorism when you collaborate with those who created these terrorist groups, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and others."
ISIS declared itself a caliphate in July, its dominion over all Muslims and territory reaching from Turkey to Saudi Arabia, the site of Islam's holiest city. While some American politicians warn that ISIS (like the big bads that came before it) could send agents across the porous U.S.-Mexico border, ISIS has far closer borders to penetrate in Saudia Arabia to the south and Turkey to the north.
In the meantime, only the United States has conducted air strikes in Iraq so far, and it is looking for other countries to commit combat troops. France, which called for the present ISIS conference a month ago, only began surveillance flights over Iraq after receiving permission from the Iraqi government at the conference. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said ground troops in Iraq would be possible if airstrikes "fail." As the U.S. prepares to escalate its military campaign against ISIS, it only provides regional powers more threatened by ISIS' operations less incentive to act on their own.