Thursday, June 12, 2014

Iran Deploys Forces to Fight al Qaeda-Inspired Militants in Iraq

Revolutionary Guard Forces Help Iraqi Troops Win Back Control of Most of Tikrit, Sources Say

By Farnaz Fassihi, WSJ
Updated June 12, 2014 9:39 p.m. ET

BEIRUT—The threat of Sunni extremists eclipsing the power of its Shiite-dominated Arab ally presents Iran with the biggest security and strategic challenge it has faced since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

With the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an offshoot of al Qaeda, rapidly gaining territory, Iran deployed Revolutionary Guards units to Iraq, according to Iranian security officials.

Iran has invested considerable financial, political and military resources over the past decade to ensure Iraq emerged from U.S. war as a strategic partner for the Islamic Republic and a strong Shiite-led state. The so-called Shiite crescent—stretching from Iran to Iraq, Lebanon and Syria—was forged largely as a result of this effort.

Two Guards' units, dispatched from Iran's western border provinces on Wednesday, were tasked with protecting Baghdad and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, these security sources said.

The involvement of Iran would pose yet another security challenge for the White House, and raises the prospect of the U.S. and Iran fighting on the same side. The U.S. opposes Iran's support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but with Tehran is jointly supporting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

State Department officials on Thursday refused to outline what steps the Obama administration would take if Iranian forces entered Iraq.

(More here.)

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