|Iranian-led intervention in Iraq|
Present territorial control of Iraq, ISIL (Gray), Iraqi Government (Red), Kurdish forces (Yellow)
Partners in Iraq
|Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant|
|Commanders and leaders|
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi|
Abu Mohammad al-Adnani
- 500 troops
- Su-25 aircraft
|Casualties and losses|
Following the advance of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant in northern Iraq in the summer of 2014, Iran began to provide military aid to counter the militant advance. Iran launched airstrikes against ISIL positions and provided combat troops and technical advisers to the Iraqi government. The Iranian government has denied having forces in Iraq, though Iranian media have published at least one image of a senior Quds Force officer "on an Iraqi battlefield."
Strategy and tactics
Iran has attempted to limit its overt military involvement in Iraq as a strategy geared toward avoiding the polarization of Iraq's Sunni minority, creating popular backlash against Iran among Iraqis, or deepening sectarian tensions. Most Iranian aid has thus far come in the form of technical assistance, the commitment of special forces troops, and air support. Iranian Brigadier-General Massoud Jazayeri stated that Iran could best help Iraq by providing it direction on its "successful experiments in popular all-around defense" that included "mobilizing masses of all ethnic groups." Iran believes cooperation and unity among Iraq's fractious militias is essential in its battle against ISIL. Ali Khamenei, in remarks delivered on September 15, 2014, credited "the people of Iraq, the Iraqi Armed Forces and the popular forces" for halting the ISIL advance of the previous summer.
In June, Iran deployed approximately 500 soldiers of the Revolutionary Guard's Qods Force to Iraq. Qods Force personnel were deployed to Samarra, Baghdad, Karbala, and the former U.S. military post known as Camp Speicher. In early summer, Iran also began shipping small arms and ammunition to Kurdish pershmerga at the request of the Kurdistan government.
On June 13, Iraqi troops backed by Qods Force units operating out of Samarra claimed to have regained control of Dhuluiyah in Saladin Province, Meanwhile, former Qods Force commander Qassem Suleimani arrived in Baghdad where he reportedly assumed the role of Iraq's "chief tactician" in dealing with ISIL.
On June 19, ISIL troops attacked Iranian border guards near Iran’s border city of Qasre Shirin.
On June 25, it was reported that Iran had established a special control center at Al-Rasheed Air Base in Baghdad and was flying a "small fleet" of Ababil drones over Iraq. According to the reports, an Iranian signals intelligence unit had also been deployed at the airfield to intercept electronic communications between ISIL fighters and commanders. That same day, Qods Force soldier Shojaat Alamdari was killed in Samarra.
Between June 30 and July 1, seven Su-25 aircraft were sent by Iran to al-Rashid and, later, to al-Muthanna air base. The aircraft were supported by bi-national Iranian/Iraqi ground crews who had been trained in Iran. (During the 1991 Gulf War, seven Su-25s had been flown by the Iraqi air force to Iran as a temporary safe haven; Iran later kept the aircraft. It has been suggested these may be the same Su-25s.) Later that month, Hezbollah sent an undisclosed number of technical advisers and intelligence analysts to Baghdad in support of the Iranian deployment in Iraq with the urge increase of security in Shia-majority parts of the city. Shortly thereafter, Hezbollah commander Ibrahim al-Hajj was reported killed in action near Mosul.
On August 21, Kurdish activists claimed to have spotted elements of Iran's 81st Armored Division entering southern Kurdistan near Jalawla. The reports have not been confirmed.[unreliable source?] Al Jazeera reported a joint Iranian-Kurdish operation near Jalawla involving hundreds of Iranian troops who left the next day, but Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham dismissed the reports of any Iranian military presence in Iraq.
There were unconfirmed reports of clashes between ISIL forces and Revolutionary Guard Corps units near Urmia on August 28. Between August 31 and September 1 the Iranian-equipped and Hezbollah-trained Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq and the Iranian-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah joined an Iraqi army assault to break the Islamic State siege of Amerli. The attack was supported by the U.S. Air Force at the request of the Iraqi army, according to a statement by the U.S. Central Command.(As of early 2014, reports characterized Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq as "controlled by Iran" and operating under the patronage of Qasem Soleimani.)
In late September, Iranian general Ahmad Reza Pourdastan threatened to "attack deep into Iraqi territory" should ISIL forces approach the Iranian border. Earlier in the month, the Iranian government announced it had arrested Afghan and Pakistani nationals attempting to "cross Iran" to join ISIL.
There have been sporadic reports of ISIL troops in Iranian Kurdistan, these claims are unverified.
International reaction to Iranian-led intervention
- Canada foreign minister John Baird said Iran was "involved in a negative way in every single country in the region" and stated that Canada considers Iran a state sponsor of terrorism.
- China China has said it wants Iran to be part of an "anti-ISIS alliance."
- France In September, French officials suggested inviting Iran to an international conference of nations involved in the American-led intervention in Iraq, however, objections by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates prevented such an invitation from being extended.
- India In what The Hindu declared was a likely reference to the exclusion of Iran and Syria from the American-led intervention in Iraq, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September said that “everyone must be included in a global fight against the terror we see in west Asia.”
- Italy Italian foreign minister Federica Mogherini has said Iran can play a "positive role" in operations against ISIL and added that she hoped agreement could be reached by which Iran would join "the countries that are working to combat ISIL and support the Iraqi government," an apparent euphemism for the American-led intervention.
- Israel During an NBC television interview in June, Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, made known his concerns over American military force in Iraq to support the Shi’ite-led Iraqi government, a close ally to Iran. He offered the following words of advice to President Barack Obama, "when your enemies are fighting one another, don't strengthen either one of them. Weaken both." Netanyahu also expressed his concern over Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability, asserting it would be a tragic mistake that would make everything else pale in comparison.
- Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula Sheikh Nasser bin Ali al Ansi has connected the current Shia insurgency in Yemen to the conflict in Iraq, saying that "Iranian agents" are the common enemy across every theater of war in the Middle East.
- Russia Russia has said it wants Iran to be part of an "anti-ISIS alliance."
- United States Following the introduction of Iranian troops into Iraq in June, President Barack Obama said that "Iran can play a constructive role if it is helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we're sending." The following month, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel offered further explanation, noting that "we are aware of the Iranian and Russian efforts to help the Iraqis, but we are not involved in coordinating any missions." In September, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. "does not have any intention" of cooperating with Iran. Nevertheless, later that month, Kerry met with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in New York where the two discussed ISIL.
Iran, Hezbollah Reaction to American-led intervention in Iraq
At the same time as the Iranian-led intervention into Iraq, a parallel American-led intervention was occurring. Neither nation is known to have cooperated with the other in combating ISIL. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has dismissed U.S. involvement, noting that "Iran, from the very first moment, did not hesitate in fighting against terrorism. Other countries apparently had their doubts for quite some time ... they acted quite late in the game.” Rouhani went on to question the level of American commitment, noting that the U.S. had not committed ground troops, as Iran had.
On September 29, in response to a statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that the United States wanted "to find out if they [Iran] will come on board" the American-led intervention, Ali Khamenei declared the U.S. position on ISIL as "absurd, hollow and biased.” Nonetheless, Khamenei also noted that some Iranian government officials were "not against" cooperation with the United States, explaining that he had personally quashed the suggestion of joint action against ISIL. In follow-up remarks, the Iranian-affiliated Kataib Hezbollah declared it would "not fight alongside the American troops under any kind of conditions whatsoever," adding that its only contact with the United States military would be “if we fight each other.”
At least one Hezbollah official has indicated the party will continue to operate independently, or in concert with Iraqi and Iranian forces, against ISIL and will not cooperate with the U.S.-led coalition concurrently operating against ISIL. Mohammad Raad dismissed the NATO-centered coalition as neither serious nor sufficient to counter ISIL and noted that Hezbollah had initiated military operations against the Islamic State prior to United States involvement.
Despite the cool reception given by Iran and its allies to the United States intervention, some observers believe the U.S. coalition will eventually be forced into brokering an alliance with Tehran. Eyal Zisser of Tel Aviv University has explained that “the West is helpless and does not know what to do against the Islamic State" and that it will ultimately conclude it has no choice but to ally with Iran.
- Operation Shader
- Persecution of Yazidis by ISIL
- 2014 military intervention against ISIL
- 2014 American-led intervention in Iraq - parallel, not coordinated with Iran, intervention
- Opération Chammal - French operation against ISIL
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