Baghdad minister denies Iranian military role in Iraq

Baghdad minister denies Iranian military role in Iraq

Defence chief says government, Kurdish peshmerga and international force is confronting IS group, and that he has "never seen" Iran's reputed commander in Iraq.
2 min read
10 January, 2015
Shia leaders claim Iraq would have fallen without Iranian aid [Getty]

Iraq's defence minister has said he has "never seen" the commander of Iranian forces inside Iraq, in an apparent attempt to play down Tehran's role in the battle against the Islamic State group.

In comments late on Friday from Makhmour, west of Mosul, Khalid al-Obeidi said Iraqi government forces, Kurdish peshmerga fighters and international troops were combining to fight the IS group, and made no mention of Iranian forces.

Obeidi said: “I heard that the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani has been present on the battlefield for four months. However, I have never seen him."

Claims and contradictions

The Iraqi defence minister's remarks contradict statements made by other Iraqis, including the leader of the Shia Badr Brigades, Hadi al-Amiri, whose fighters are protecting the al-Askari shrine in Samarra. Iranian forces are also reported to be in the holy city.

Amiri had stated previously that were it not for Iranian intervention and the leadership of Soleimani, Baghdad would have fallen to the Islamic State group and its allies.

The head of the Shia Supreme Council, Ammar al-Hakim, has also said from Tehran that were it not for Iran, Erbil, the capital of the the Kurdish region of Iraq, "would have fell in IS's hands".

However, Kurdish leaders have denied any Iranian role in the defence of their region save for one weapons shipment from Tehran last year. However, Kurdish sources said the weapons were ineffective on the battlefield and had been mothballed.

This is an edited translation of the original Arabic.