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Editorial: An Iranian alliance?

The old saying is that “politics makes strange bedfellows.”

That’s true, but recent developments in the Middle East could possibly make the strangest “bedfellows” of all.

The U.S. and Iran are seriously considering making an alliance to aid the threatened Baghdad government of Nouri Al Maliki — the Shiite Muslim leader who’s been propped up in Iraq by Americans for the past several years despite his increasingly harsh treatment of the Sunni fraction of his population.

Now Sunni-backed insurgents from Syria are invading Iraq and could very well take over the country, throwing the region into even worse turmoil than it has seen since the U.S. invaded and deposed its dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Iran’s Shiite leaders have become increasingly concerned about the Sunni militants, who style themselves the “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant,” and who have shown surprising strength as they move into Iraq.

The Obama administration, also concerned that any gains arising from U.S. intervention be lost, is reportedly preparing to open direct talks with Iran on possibly cooperating to counter the ISIL/ISIS incursion.

The idea is breathtaking. After all, the two countries have been at each other’s throats since the Islamic revolution of 1979, during which Iranians seized American diplomats and embassy staff and held them hostage for 444 days in direct contravention of all international law and norms.

In the years since, Iran has funded and trained terrorist organizations that have attacked American and other western citizens and cities, causing hundreds of casualties. The country’s religious leaders have preached death to Americans, and have worked actively to attempt to produce a nuclear arsenal, with which to threaten the West.

The idea of a rapprochement that could lead to cooperative action is astounding.

But it may happen.

Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday the administration was “open to discussions” with Tehran if they can help end the violence, adding he would “not rule out anything that would be constructive.” And even diehard administration critics seemed open to the idea. “Why did we deal with Stalin? Because he was not as bad as Hitler,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. said on a Sunday talk show. “The Iranians can provide some assets to make sure Baghdad doesn’t fall.”

In the meantime, the Pentagon is moving forces into the region. USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious assault ship, is moving into the Persian Gulf with about 500 Marines on board, to help in the event of an evacuation. And the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George HW Bush, along with a cruiser, USS Philippines Sea, and a guided missile destroyer, USS Truxton, are already there.

Security at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has been beefed up with the addition of 100 additional Marines, and non-essential personnel are being removed.

The situation is increasingly strained and dangerous, and there’s no telling what will result.

But even talking about making a deal with Tehran for mutual operations shows just how serious the threat is.

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