As ISIS terrorists continued pushing towards Baghdad last week, one of the 20th century’s most iconic fighter-bombers joined in the air campaign to push them back. Video footage from the front lines showed a McDonnell-Douglas F-4E Phantom diving in, bombing and strafing the jihadists and hopefully inflicting heavy casualties. But the last US F-4 was retired in 1995; this plane was flown by an Iranian Air Force crew.
Iran has been high on the USA’s Middle East to-do list since the 1979 Islamic Revolution and subsequent hostage crisis, and things haven’t improved over the last few years. Iran’s nuclear program is a huge concern and regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia both distrust the Shia state. All the same, the more immediate threat of ISIS has put America and Iran on the same side of the battle lines for once.
Iran has a 35-year history of supporting terrorism around the world, most notably Hezbollah – but that doesn’t mean they’re on the same side as groups like al-Qaida or ISIS. In fact there’s never been any love lost between the Salafist extremists and Iran’s Shia population. Al-Qaida has carried out terrorist attacks against Iranian mosques as well as exterminating tens of thousands of Shia in Iraq and Afghanistan; meanwhile Iran has close links to Iraq’s Shia-dominated government and doesn’t want to see it toppled by Sunni fanatics. Despite all their differences, the USA and Iran are in complete agreement about one issue: Salafist jihadis are bad news.
The big question is where this will lead. There’s no prospect of Iran formally joining the anti-ISIS coalition that’s slowly coming together; the administration is clear on the fact that they won’t invite Tehran, and for their part the Iranians say they wouldn’t join anyway. In fact they’re denying even having carried out any strikes, although given that we have footage of their aircraft hitting ISIS targets, that isn’t going to wash. Right now it doesn’t matter much. The Iranians aren’t coordinating their attacks with the USAF but they’re happening in different areas of Iraq, so the potential for fratricide is low. In any case my guess is that a USAF pilot who sees an F-4 blitzing jihadis is going to turn a blind eye; the enemy of my enemy…
There are serious differences with Iran over the ongoing conflict in Syria – the US administration supports the “moderate” opposition, or will as soon as it can find one, while Iran is solidly behind the Assad regime. That’s mostly because Assad, for all his faults, runs a religiously tolerant government; the country’s Christians, Shia, Alevites and even the handful of Jews all support him. Meanwhile most of the opposition are Sunni, and they pretty much all fall somewhere on the jihadi spectrum. Israel and Saudi Arabia might not like the idea of the USA and Iran fighting on the same side, but the fact is when it comes to ISIS we are on the same side. If Tehran wants to get some use out of its old Phantoms, this isn’t the time to stop them.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.