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Why Iran Tensions Could Represent a 'Big Problem' for Obama and His Strategy to Fight Islamic State

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"This is an unexpected diplomatic problem, a big problem."

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a press conference in the Brady Briefing Room of the White House on April 23, 2015 in Washington, DC. The White House admitted Thursday that a January US operation against an Al Qaeda compound near the Afghan-Pakistan border killed one American and one Italian hostage, along with an American member of the jihadist group. The White House identified the hostages killed in the operation against the border compound as US contractor Warren Weinstein and Italian aid worker Giovanni Lo Porto. (AFP PHOTO/MANDEL NGAN)

Recent diplomatic tensions between Iran and other Middle Eastern governments are a "big problem" for President Barack Obama and his strategy to defeat the Islamic State.

On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" Tuesday, NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel described how the decision by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates to sever or downgrade diplomatic relations with Iran could negatively affect U.S. efforts to deal with the terrorist group.

AP Photo/NasserAP Photo/Nasser

"This is an unexpected diplomatic problem, a big problem for the White House and a big problem for the strategy against ISIS and a big problem against finding a solution to the Syrian conflict," Engel said.

He was referring to the Sunni-led states Bahrain, Sudan and the UAE, all of which downgraded or completely cut off ties with Iran after Saudi Arabia severed its relations with the Ayatollah on Sunday. 

Saudi Arabia's action came shortly after Iranian demonstrators burned the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, which happened as part of a protest against the Saudi kingdom's recent execution of a Shiite cleric.

The United States' "diplomatic efforts have now taken a back seat," because of these rising tensions, Engel said.

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