Iran Bombing ISIS Targets in Iraq

December 4, 2014

            In late November, Iran reportedly bombed Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, targets in Diyala, Iraq. Tehran used American-made F4 Phantom jets, likely sold to Iran before the 1979 revolution, according to analysis of video by Jane's Defense Weekly. Since ISIS began seizing swaths of Iraqi territory in June, Iran has supported Kurdish and Shiite militias trying to push back the extremists on the ground. Meanwhile, a U.S.-led coalition began conducting airstrikes on ISIS targets in August.
             But both U.S. and Iranian officials have emphasized that their countries are not coordinating their military activities in Iraq, instead deferring to Baghdad to control the airspace. Secretary of State John Kerry insisted that the Iranian strikes did not constitute a change in the “fundamental policy of not coordinating our military activity or other activities” with Iran, though the “net effect is positive.”

            Iranian officials initially refused to confirm or deny the bombings when questioned by the press, but Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour confirmed on December 5 that Iran had conducted airstrikes at the request of the Iraqi government. "We will not allow conditions in Iraq to descend to the level of Syria," he said. Gen. Massoud Jazayeri denied cooperation with Washington and blamed it for the “unrest and problems in Iraq and the terrorist activities of IS.” Iranian officials have been skeptical about U.S. intentions, casting doubt on both the motives behind U.S. air strikes against ISIS and the effectiveness of this strategy.
            The following are excerpted remarks from Iranian, U.S., and Iraqi officials on Iran’s involvement in fighting ISIS.

Iran

President Hassan Rouhani
            "If countries in the region agree, they could eliminate anti-Islamic groups like Daesh and liberate thousands of men, women and children who have lost their homes."
            "In this case, there would be no need for the presence of foreigners." 
            Rouhani called for countries to "stop direct and indirect financial aid to terrorist groups" 
            He also called for a change in teaching at religious learning centres to prevent young people being radicalized and for the international community to fight "the use of the Internet and social networks by terrorists."
            Dec 9, 2014 according to the press
 
Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour
            "[the purpose of the strikes was] the defense of the interests of our friends in Iraq."
            "In this matter, we did not have any coordination with the Americans. We have only coordinated with the Iraqi government."
            "In general, every military operation to help the Iraqi government is according to their requests."
            "We will not allow conditions in Iraq to descend to the level of Syria, which has been created by foreign players. And certainly our assistance [to Iraq] is stronger than our assistance to Syria, because they are nearer to us."
            "We are taking our security actions at the request of the Iraqi government. On the other hand, we are assisting the Kurds in the north, our friends over there, and although there is some differentiation between the Kurdish perspective and the Iraqi government, we can make an arrangement according to both their interests."
            "This is only an advisory presence [in Iraq]. There is no need to send Iranian troops to Iraq. There are sufficient Iraqi and Kurdish troops there."
            Dec. 5, according to the press
 
Deputy Chief of Staff of Armed Forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri

            Dec. 4, 2014 via Press TV
 
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran knows America to be the cause of unrest and problems in Iraq and the terrorist activities of IS and believes that if it were not for the plans and support of America and reactionaries in the region, today, the world would not witness the destruction of cities and villages and the slaughtering of people by terrorists in Iraq and Syria.”
            “America will have no place in the future of this country [Iraq].”
            Dec. 2, 2014 in an interview with Fars News (translation via Al Monitor)
 
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afhkham
            “I stress that there has been no change in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s policies with respect to fighting Takfiri groups, helping the Iraqi government and providing consultations [to Baghdad] in the fight against terrorist and Takfiri groups.”
            “Reports about Iran’s cooperation with military groups of other countries in combating ISIL are not accurate and not right.”
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press
 
Member of Parliament Hamid Reza Taraghi
            “We do not tolerate any threats within the buffer zone, and these targets were in the vicinity of the buffer zone.”
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press
 
            "Iran bombed [the Islamic State] independently, without coordination with the coalition led by the Americans."
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press

 

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif
            “The Islamic Republic of Iran realized the danger of violence and extremism in Iraq since the very first day and stood by the Iraqi nation, and we will stand by the Iraqi people including Shias, Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs until the end of [their] fight against extremism and terror.
            “Today, the world has understood the reality that the first country to rush to the help of the Iraqi people in the battle against extremism and terror was the Islamic Republic of Iran, which countered these common threats.”
             Dec. 7, 2014 in a joint press conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al Jaafari

            "We believe [the aggression] raised the morale of the takfiri groups after the defeats which ISIS had in the past weeks by being confronted by the people of Syria and Iraq and to assist these groups with whom the Zionist entity is coordinating."
            "Our friends in the region must realize the reality that the spread of these groups is caused by the financial support they receive, and that there’s no solution other than drying up the sources of terrorism, that the threat of these terrorist groups will backfire on their backers before anyone else."
            Dec 9, 2014 according to Syrian state press
 
            “From the beginning, Iran, Syria and Iraq have shared views about fighting against terrorism and extremism; they showed resistance.
            Dec 9, 2014 according to Tasnim News

            "It is still not clear what we have to do in Iraq and what they have to do in return,"
            "And that's exactly the difficult part."
            Dec 9, 2014 according to Al-Arabiya
 
United States
 
Secretary of State John Kerry
            QUESTION: The Pentagon said that it believes that Iran carried out several airstrikes in Iraq’s Diyala province in the past couple of days. Are you aware of these strikes? Do you welcome such Iranian air missions in Iraq? Do you think they’re helpful to the fight against ISIL or do you think that it’d be better if Iran avoids these actions?
           
            SECRETARY KERRY: First of all, I’m not going to make any announcements or confirm or deny the reported military action of another country in Iraq. It’s up to them or up to the Iraqis to do that, if it indeed took place. We are obviously flying our missions over Iraq and we coordinate those missions with the Iraqi Government. And we rely on the Iraqi Government to deconflict whatever control of their airspace may in fact need that deconfliction.
            So nothing has changed in our fundamental policy of not coordinating our military activity or other activities at this moment with Iranians. We’re not doing that. And we are not – not only not coordinating militarily right now, but there are no plans at this time to coordinate militarily. I think it’s self-evident that if Iran is taking on ISIL in some particular place and it’s confined to taking on ISIL and it has an impact, it’s going to be – the net effect is positive. But that’s not something that we’re coordinating. The Iraqis have the overall responsibility for their own ground and air operations, and what they choose to do is up to them.
            Dec. 3, 2014 in a statement to the press
 
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby

            QUESTION: Also on ISIS, are the Iranians striking ISIS targets inside Iraq, to your knowledge?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: I've seen the reports. We have no indication that the reports are not true, that Iranian aircraft have conducted airstrikes in the last several days against ISIL targets in eastern Iraq.
 
            QUESTION: How do you deconflict that air space?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: It's the Iraqi air space and Iraqi’s to deconflict. We are not coordinating with nor are we deconflicting with Iranian military.
 
            QUESTION: (off mic) number one, is it -- is the Iraqi government taking the lead for the air traffic deconfliction and control? Or is it -- or are Americans involved there?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: It's Iraqi -- it is sovereign Iraqi air space. It's a sovereign country. They deconflict the air space requirements over their country. We are flying missions over Iraq. We coordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those. It's up to the Iraqi government to deconflict that air space. We are -- nothing has changed about our policy of not coordinating military activity with the Iranians.
 
            QUESTION: And the second part of that question was, what is the Pentagon perspective on the fact of Iranian airstrikes within Iraq at this moment, if they are occurring? Is there -- you know, does that -- is that helpful? Or is that problematic?
            REAR ADM. KIRBY: Our message to Iran is the same today as it was when it started. And as it is to any neighbor in the region that is involved in the anti-ISIL activities, and that's that we want nothing to be done that further inflames sectarian tensions in the country.
            Dec. 2, 2014 in a press briefing
 
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Stuart Jones
            "Let's face it...Iran is an important neighbor to Iraq. There has to be cooperation between Iran and Iraq. The Iranians are talking to the Iraqi security forces and we're talking to the Iraqi security forces...we're relying on them to do the deconfliction."
            Dec. 5, 2014 according to the press
 
Iraq
 
Prime Minister Haider al Abadi
            “When Baghdad was threatened, the Iranians did not hesitate to help us, and did not hesitate to help the Kurds when Erbil was threatened.”
the Iranians were “unlike the Americans, who hesitated to help us when Baghdad was in danger, and hesitated to help our security forces.”
            “And the reason Iran did not hesitate to help us,” Mr. Abadi added, “was because they consider ISIS as a threat to them, not only to us.”
            Dec. 3, 2014 according to the press