Politicians keep taking jabs at ISIS, yet the world's most notorious terrorist group continues to carry out spectacular, deadly attacks around the world. This is because politicians jab only at the extremities of their foe - they cannot win unless they deliver a knockout blow to the head. And that target is Iran.
Peace-seeking governments need to pinpoint the source of the problem. Why is ISIS, for all its brutality, still able to recruit young Sunni Muslims from around the world? The path of destruction leads to the doorstep of Shiite Iran.
Iran's religious oligarchy has declared an unholy war on Sunnis. It blatantly interferes in domestic affairs of the entire region. Since usurping power in 1979, Iran's Ayatollahs have used proxies such as Hezbollah and other Shiite groups to export its radical view throughout the Islamic world.
Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia, comfortable in its lavish, petro-dollar lifestyle and averse to conflict, now ranks among those engaged in a Cold War with Iran.
Saudi foreign minister Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir observed that Iran's own constitution commands it to "export the revolution," and he accused Iran of a litany of crimes against humanity. Among them were masterminding the 1996 Khobar Tower bombings and harboring Al Qaeda's senior leaders in 2003 when they ordered the bombing of several housing compounds in Riyadh. He also cited Iran's aid to the separatist Houthis, a Shiite-led movement in Yemen.
Iran is engaged not only in Saudi Arabia, but also interferes in the domestic security of Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
After Saddam Hussein's reign was toppled during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iran crept in to fill the political gap by befriending pro-Iranian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which resulted in a dramatic loss of Sunni power in the new government.
The rise of ISIS looms merely as the poster child of Iran's aggression.
"The Islamic State is in many respects simply the bloodiest and most fanatical part of a region-wide Sunni uprising against Iran's imperial ambitions in the Middle East," Lee Smith wrote in the Weekly Standard.
Iran has sent more than 2,000 religious students and scholars to Iraq's holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and about one-third of them reportedly work for the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence. Some experts estimate as many as 30,000 Iranian operatives may be in Iraq.
In Syria, Iran has conducted "an extensive, expensive and integrated effort to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to retain its ability to use Syrian territory and assets to pursue its regional interests should Assad fall," according to the Institute for the Study of War, a non-partisan, U.S.-based research group.
The Iran-Russia unholy alliance is engaged in a genocide of Syrian Sunnis whose only sin was asking for political participation in their government.
Former Afghan spy chief Amrullah Saleh criticized Iran for interfering in Afghanistan's affairs through Shiite groups and told reporters that Iran remains a major threat for the national security of the country unless Afghanistan becomes independent and self-sufficient.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Iran has been recruiting thousands of Afghan refugees to fight in Syria, offering $500 a month and Iranian residency to help the Assad regime beat back rebel forces.
Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shiite militant groups, estimates that up to 3,500 Afghans are currently fighting in Syria. "Some are coerced to fight, others promised residency papers for their family and a small salary," Smyth said. "It demonstrates Iran's exploitation of Afghan Shiite refugees."
Iranian Ayatollahs seized political power and want to keep it by diverting attention to foreign adventures. The Shiite sect allows Taqiyya, the practice of deceit in order to preserve one's life or property. The Ayatollahs have adopted this as an instrument of foreign policy.
The most dangerous aspect of Iran's misguided policy is that it can push Sunnis either to tacitly condone ISIS actions or actually join the group to counter Iran's acts of anti-Sunni genocide. They may see two choices: flee as a refugee to Europe or join ISIS.
In fact, if it weren't for Iran's interference in the Middle East, ISIS might not even exist.
Iran's rulers are throwing rocks, then hiding their hands behind their backs. If they want re-engagement with the rest of the world, they must stop exporting their radical ideology and stop playing Taqiyya.
Perhaps no single knockout punch exists that can destroy ISIS, but Iran holds the key to peace in the Middle East. As long as Iran continues its destructive policies, defeating ISIS will remain a grave challenge.
Until Iran ceases its deadly meddling in other states' affairs, the very least we could do is enforce economic sanctions against its government.