A senior Iranian official has confirmed his country carried out air strikes in neighbouring Iraq against Islamic State of the Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) fighters at the request of Iraqi authorities, Britain’s Guardian newspaper has reported.
It quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour as saying the strikes were not coordinated with the United States, which is also waging an air campaign against the armed group that controls large parts of north and west Iraq.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s defence ministry, on Sunday, denied that any Iranian fighter jets had targeted ISIL hideouts in Iraqi airspace.
The purpose of the strikes was “the defence of the interests of our friends in Iraq”, the newspaper quoted Rahimpour as saying in an interview in London on Saturday.
“We did not have any coordination with the Americans. We have coordinated only with the Iraqi government,” he said.
“In general, every military operation to help the Iraqi government is according to their requests.”
Rahimpour’s reported comments were the first from an Iranian official confirming Iran’s role in the air strikes in the Iraqi province of Diyala, which borders Iran, in late November.
On Wednesday, an Iranian official had denied that Iran had launched any such strikes.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi said on Wednesday he had no knowledge of Iranian air strikes.
On Saturday, Finance Minister Hoshiyar Zebari told a security conference in Bahrain: “It’s not 100 percent confirmed.”
The Iranian role was first highlighted in footage filmed by Al Jazeera television, which appeared to show an F-4 Phantom striking ISIL positions in Diyala.
Defence experts said Iran and Turkey were the only regional operators of the F-4, and Turkey is reluctant to take on ISIL militarily.