Khamenei Says Iraq Can Battle IS Without Foreignersإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Tuesday told Iraq's visiting premier that the Baghdad government is capable of defeating Islamic State jihadists without foreign troops being deployed.
"We stand beside you and will seriously defend your government like the previous government," Khamenei said in a meeting in Tehran with Iraq's Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.
"Iran recognizes the security of Iraq, (our) neighbor and brother country, as its own security," Khamenei said, quoted by state television.
The all-powerful Iranian leader said he believed that Iraqis had "the capacity to overcome the terrorists and establish security" alone without the "need for foreign presence".
To counter an offensive launched by the Islamic State group (IS) on June 9, Iran has supplied Iraqi Kurds with weapons and sent military advisers to Baghdad, while denying it has deployed ground troops.
But in early October, Iranian television published a rare picture of its elite Quds Force chief, Major General Qassem Suleimani, in an Iraqi battlefield alongside Kurdish peshmerga forces.
And in September, a senior Iranian military official threatened to attack deep inside Iraq if the IS jihadists approached his country's border.
Tehran, which has refused to join the international coalition against IS, advocates regional support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments, and says that air strikes are insufficient.
Before flying to Iran, Abadi ruled out any foreign ground intervention to assist government forces in retaking territory lost to the jihadists.
But at the same time the Iraqi premier appeared to set restrictions on Iran, saying no "regional power will fight here".
On Tuesday during his first official visit to Iran since his appointment last month, Abadi said his country was at war with "terrorists" threatening the region.
"Iraq is not fighting terrorism only. It is an extensive war with all these groups," he said, alluding to IS and other extremist fighters such as Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate Al-Nusra Front.
"It's a threat to the region and these terrorist groups are trying to create a division between Shiites and Sunnis," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
Abadi, from Iraq's Shiite majority, also met with President Hassan Rouhani and Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.
The visit was originally scheduled to last one day but will continue on Wednesday with Abadi set to meet influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and parliament speaker Ali Larijani.
As mainly Shiite neighbors, Iran and Iraq have been close since the ouster of Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein in the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, with Tehran's role becoming increasingly open in recent years.
The relationship has deepened militarily after the rapid offensive by IS fighters from Syria deep into Iraq this summer, which continues to pose a major threat to Baghdad.
The visit was Abadi's first to Tehran since taking over after Nuri al-Maliki's failed bid to win a new term after this summer's IS offensive brought Iraq close to collapse.
Iran had resolutely backed Maliki since he took office in Baghdad in 2006, but lost faith in him after the capitulation of the Iraqi military in the face of only a few thousand IS jihadists.