The Wall Street Journal reports: Iran is pursuing a delicate strategy of supporting fellow Shiite Muslims and preserving its influence in neighboring Iraq—where the government is under siege by radical Sunni militants—without pushing the confrontation into outright sectarian warfare.
For the second straight week, influential clerics, who are appointed by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, used their Friday sermons to denounce the militant groups and support Iraq’s government. But their speeches steered clear of explicitly encouraging individual Shiites to act against the Sunni insurgents.
“We are ready to help Iraq as they ask for help,” Ayatollah Mohammad Saeedi told thousands of Iranians gathered for Friday prayers in Qom, Iran’s religious capital.
The country has openly sent top military advisers to help the Iraqi government, and blamed a collection of foreign enemies from Saudi Arabia to Israel and the U.S. for the violence. It deployed at least three battalions of elite Revolutionary Guards units to Iraq, according to Iranian security officials—an action Iran’s foreign ministry denied.
Yet it has stopped short of sending in large numbers of its own troops and discouraged ordinary Iranians from crossing the border to fight or defend holy sites in Iraq. [Continue reading…]
Al Jazeera reports: An Iranian pilot has been killed while fighting in Iraq, in what is thought to be the first military casualty that Tehran officially acknowledged during battles against Sunni fighters led by the Islamic State group.
Iran’s official IRNA news agency said on Saturday that Colonel Shoja’at Alamdari Mourjani was killed while “defending” the Shia Muslim holy sites in the city of Samarra, north of Baghdad.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said there were no reports of a plane being shot down in Iraq and the pilot probably died while fighting on the ground. [Continue reading…]