Iran has informally joined the international air force targeting the Islamic State, as it launches multiple air strikes in eastern Iraq against ISIS forces on the ground.
The Pentagon confirmed yesterday what had earlier been reported by al-Jazeera, that Iranian fighter-bombers had conducted missions against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria over the past few days. Flying missions with veteran F-4 Phantom II jet aircraft acquired from the Unites States during the reign of the pro-Western monarchy which was deposed in 1979, the air raids may have linked up with already significant Iranian ground operations.
The Middle-Eastern state has been at loggerheads with the United States since the Iranian Revolution, which saw the ushering in of a theocratic Islamic republic, and this makes any admission of cooperation difficult for both nations. Indeed, the Guardian reports the comments of Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, who said: “We have indications that they [Iran] did indeed fly air strikes with F-4 Phantoms in the past several days.
“We are flying missions over Iraq. We co-ordinate with the Iraqi government as we conduct those… Nothing has changed about our policy of not co-ordinating military activity with the Iranians”.
That Iran would commit its difficult-to-maintain, forty-year-old fighter-bomber fleet to a ground-attack role in Iraq in support of an international coalition led by its sworn enemy demonstrates the concern it feels about the Islamic State. As an extremist Sunni sect, ISIS lays claim to Iran, controlled by a Shia theocracy and other neighbouring countries besides.
In lending military trainers, equipment, and even ground forces, Iran is supplying various forces opposing the Islamic State that means it will continue to fall out with the United States. As well as committing ground forces in neighbour Iraq in support of the legitimate government there, Iran is also one of the principal friends of the rump Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. Although Assad has fallen foul of the West since attempts to depose his own government by popular uprising, he has remained a steadfast opponent of the Islamic State which controls vast swathes of old Syria.