(Reuters) – Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei blamed Western powers on Tuesday for the rise of Islamic State (IS) insurgents in Iraq and Syria and said they had no business tampering with the region’s geopolitics.
Iran and the United States have been arch-foes for decades but now share a strategic interest in reversing the territorial gains of IS that threaten to remake the Middle East map.
But cooperation has been blocked in part by the fact Tehran and Washington back opposing sides in Syria’s civil war, where Islamic State is among rebel forces fighting President Bashar al-Assad. While Washington opposes Assad, it sees IS as a bigger threat and is staging air strikes to try to neutralize the al Qaeda offshoot with the support of Western and Gulf Arab allies.
“(The) current imbroglio is the outcome of irresponsible acts in Syria by alien powers along with certain regional countries,” Khamenei said, according to a statement read on state television, an allusion to mainly Turkey and Saudi Arabia,
He praised Iraq for “refusing to allow its soil to be used” against Assad, which Tehran has shored up against rebels bent on toppling him with the support of Western and Gulf Arab foes.
“We must firmly withstand them,” Khamenei said, referring to those arrayed against Assad. “(I have) no faith in the sincerity of the (U.S.-led) coalition against Islamic State. We believe the problem of Islamic State and terrorism should be tackled by regional countries.”