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The march of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria, now known simply as the Islamic State, has stirred up unpleasant memories for many Iranians of the 1980-88 war when Saddam Hussein unleashed Iraq's powerful army against Iran.Mashreq News, a website linked to Iranian conservatives, has highlighted ISIS warnings on social media, quoting the group's threats of "total destruction" of shrines at Najaf, Karbala and Samarra before moving on to Mashhad, the shrine of the eighth imam, the only Shiite imam buried in Iran.Facing such threats, Iranians have always closed ranks. More liberal-minded Iranians would not share the language of, say, Grand Ayatollah Naser Makarem Shirazi in calling for a jihad "in defense of the integrity of Iraq and especially its sacred shrines". However, they would have no doubt that Iran must act – first and foremost to protect its own citizens, and also to protect its national interests.There are, nonetheless, differences in Iran over what to do about ISIS.All this suggests Iran will calibrate its military support for the Baghdad government, seek to persuade the Kurds not to leave Iraq and keep open channels for diplomacy with the Sunni-led Arab states.
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