Iran pledges to help Iraq against 'IS' militants
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged his country's support for Iraq while it fights back the jihadist group "Islamic State" (IS). The comments were delivered on Tuesday during a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Iran.
"As we supported Iraq from the beginning against those (Islamic State) terrorists, we will be there until the very end," Rouhani said.
The Iranian leader emphasized that boosting ties with his neighbor would "serve the interests of the region."
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also met with the Iraqi premier to affirm his support.
"We stand beside you and will seriously defend your government like the previous government," Iran's state television quoted Khamenei as saying. Khamenei did however express his lack of confidence in Western powers, saying that he had "no faith in the sincerity of the coalition against the Islamic State," adding that Iraq had the capacity to overcome terrorists without the "need for foreign presence."
A new alliance?
This is al-Abadi's first trip to a foreign country after taking up his post in September.
"Choosing Iran as my first destination after taking office indicates the depth of ties," al-Abadi said, adding that terrorism was a threat to all regional countries.
The Iraqi prime minister's office said that the Iran trip was targeted at uniting "regional and international efforts." A meeting between the leaders of the two countries, which were at war from 1980 to 1988, could also indicate the formation of a new alliance to prevent Islamic State militants from further expanding their territory. However, Iran's close relations with Syria's president and US rival, Bashar al-Assad, may create a hindrance to any plausible cooperation between longtime foes Tehran and Washington.
The US and its coalition of western countries are already targeting IS militants through multiple airstrikes in Iraq, where more than 40 people were killed after suspected IS militants attacked members of the Shiite community on Monday and Tuesday.
Washington has also targeted the jihadist fighters in Syria.
The Islamic State, whose aim is to establish a "caliphate" in the Middle East, has occupied vast swathes of territory in northwestern Iraq and eastern Syria since June of this year. The radical Sunni militia has also captured the city of Mosul in Iraq's north and is accused of massacres, persecution of women and of minority communities.
mg/kms (AP, dpa, AFP)