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Iran, ISIS And Ambitions Of Empires

There has been much recent speculation about Iran working with its longtime nemesis, the United States, to confront a new, common enemy: the radical Islamist organization ISIS.

Indeed, the Sunni zealots of ISIS have focused some of their rhetoric directly at Tehran, the center of Shia Islam, vowing to fight what it says are Iran's goal of restoring the Safavid Empire, the much more extensive Persian state of the 17th century.

In an apparent response to such claims, Iran’s conservative parliamentary speaker, Ali Larijani, said this week that the country “does not want an empire.”

Larijani told a Tehran seminar on Palestine that Iran's 1979 revolution was directed against empires, and all Iran seeks now is the "dignity" and "enlightenment" of Muslims. If it was helping “resistance forces” like the Lebanese Hezbollah, he said, in order to “end the Zionist current in the Middle East,” the semi-official ISNA agency reported.

Larijani’s comments on Tuesday appeared directed at a range of critics, including the West. He cited former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's recent remarks qualifying Iran as a greater threat to Western interests than ISIS, because Iran was "an intellectual current in the Islamic world" whereas ISIS was "just a political group."

Iran's regime has intermittently accused the West of fomenting conflict in Iraq and Syria and surreptitiously backing extremist Sunni groups. Yet in spite of the mutual suspicions, the country is currently negotiating its nuclear program with the West, in a bid to free itself from crippling economic sanctions.

Iran’s Deputy-Foreign Minister Abbas Araqchi told Iranian television this week that the sides had written down “about 60 to 70%” of a final nuclear deal, ahead of a meeting in New York scheduled for September 18,” the reformist Aftab-e Yazd daily reported.

— Ahmad Shayegan

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