A not-so-funny thing happened to President Rouhani’s press conference on Saturday: the celebration of the anniversary of his election was overtaken by the crisis in Iraq and Iran’s involvement.
Amid mounting reports that Iran’s elite Qods Force, troops, Basij militia, and commanders are in Iraq, Rouhani insisted that “the issue of Iranian forces’ engagement has not been raised so far”:
Since the onset of its establishment, the Islamic Republic has never taken such measures and we have never sent our troops to another country for operations. Of course, we will provide countries with our consultative views.
Rouhani’s statement was a direct contradiction of the statement by Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari that Iran has “offered to help in any way we want, even to send forces”.
Iranian forces are reportedly involved in the defense of Samarra and its Shia shrines, 70 miles north of Baghdad, and in Diyala Province in eastern Iraq. Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani is said to have been in and near Baghdad, reviewing defense positions and talking to high-level Iraqi Government officials.
Holding the line — and risking irony — Foreign Ministry spokesman Marzieh Afkham insisted on Saturday</strong> that Iran is “opposed to foreign military intervention in Iraq”:
Any move that complicates the situation in Iraq will not be in the interest of Iraq and the region. Iraqi people and government from all political and religious groups will confront the pro-violence, extremist and terrorist elements as a unified front.
The Supreme Leader’s top foreign policy aide, Ali Akbar Velayati, echoed, “Problems in the Middle East region could be solved more easily if outsiders did not meddle in the domestic affairs of regional countries”.
And Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said Iran’s support “against the flow of Takfiri and terrorist groups…does not mean dispatching forces, but condemning terrorist moves and closing the borders”.
Senior Official: Reports of Iran-US Cooperation on Iraq “Unreal”
The Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, has dismissed Western reports of possible Iran-US cooperation on the Iraq crisis as “completely” and part of Western “psychological warfare”.
Earlier this week, a “senior Iranian official” said Tehran was ready to work with Washington to counter the insurgency in Iraq: “We can work with Americans to end the insurgency in the Middle East. We are very influential in Iraq, Syria, and many other countries.”
Shamkhani said, “We will examine the issue of helping (Iraq) within the framework of international regulations in case of an official request by the Iraqi government and this will be completely a bilateral process and has nothing to do with a third country.”
He then repeated allegations, made by Speaker of Parliament Ali Larijani, of US responsiblity for the Islamic State of Iraq and as-Sham, claiming that Washington and its partner had fostered the jihadist organization: “Certain US allies have financial, intelligence and logistic cooperation with Washington to implement such a policy.”
Student Activist Dori Released After 5 Years
Student activist Majid Dori has been freed after completing a five-year sentence for involvement in protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election.
Dori was expelled from Allameh Tabatabai University and arrested in July 2009. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in exile in southern Iran, with the term reduced to five years on appeal.
Friends and supporters welcomed him at Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport: