Amid signs that Western leaders may try to work with Iran to halt the march of Sunni Islamic extremists like the Islamic State, Jerusalem’s message to the world is to be wary of strengthening one bad actor in order to combat another, government officials said Monday.
British Prime Minister David Cameron, in a piece that appeared in The Sunday Telegraph, wrote: “The creation of an extremist caliphate in the heart of Iraq and extending into Syria is not a problem miles away from home. Nor is it a problem that should be defined by a war 10 years ago. It is our concern here and now. Because if we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.”
Cameron added that, “We must work with countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the UAE, Egypt and Turkey against these extremist forces, and perhaps even with Iran, which could choose this moment to engage with the international community against this shared threat.”
On June 26, soon after the Islamic State, then known as ISIS, made extraordinary gains in Iraq, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on NBC’s Meet the Press that Washington’s approach should be to try simultaneously to weaken both Iran and the extremist Sunni organization.
“When your enemies are fighting each other, don’t strengthen either one of them,” he said.
Government officials said that Netanyahu has repeated that message in private meetings and conversations ever since.
During that interview Netanyahu related to the concern that the US might seek cooperation with Iran to combat ISIS, and that this might lead to less Western vigilance to keep Iran from gaining nuclear arms. Netanyahu said that the worst outcome by far would be that Iran “would come out with nuclear weapons capability.”
“That would be a tragic mistake,” he said. “It will make everything else pale in comparison. I think the ultimate and the most important goal in the Middle East is to make sure Iran does not have nuclear weapons capability, because those weapons, unlike mortars and machine guns that can kill thousands and chemical weapons that kill tens of thousands, these weapons – nuclear weapons – could kill millions. That should be prevented at all cost.”