Iran is escalating its military presence in Iraq by flying surveillance drones over the nation to track the movements of Sunni jihadist group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that United States officials have confirmed the presence of Iranian drones in the country.
The newspaper reports that Iran has begun flying the drones over territories that are key to the Iraqi government’s keeping ISIS at bay and sharing the information with the Iraqi government so as to help develop battle strategies. American officials confirmed that the drones are unarmed and not being used to strike the Islamist terrorist group, but instead to help direct the Iraqi army.
United States officials also noted that Iran has escalated its aid in other ways. According to the Wall Street Journal, “a U.S. official said that Iran has been bringing two plane loads a day of military supplies to Iraq and so far has shipped in about 70 tons of materiel to the Iraqi government.” Another official confirmed to the New York Times the same information. “It’s not necessarily heavy weaponry, but it’s not just light arms and ammunition,” that source said.
The United States, the report also notes, has been fueling a parallel surveillance effort to help the Iraqi government. America has “increased its manned and unmanned surveillance flights over Iraq since ISIS swept across the north of the country and is now flying about 30 to 35 missions a day.” Some of those flights are conducted by unmanned drones.
The United States is working independently to help the Iraqi government from Iran, though Secretary of State John Kerry has said that the Obama administration is open to the possibility of pool efforts to defeat the threat of ISIS. That statement alarmed many in Israel, where public radio warned that Iranian help in fighting ISIS could lead to Iran’s demanding more flexibility from the global community on developing a nuclear program, something many Israelis consider an existential threat.
Iran publicly stated an intention to provide Iraq with any resources necessary to combat ISIS and has expanded its presence in the country. Iran has also publicly requested that the United States help fight ISIS alongside Iranian forces, something Secretary Kerry called a possibility without reaching a definite conclusion.
In addition to Iran, the Syrian army has conducted airstrikes in Iraq, as many jihadists on the ground fighting the administration of Bashar al-Assad are affiliated with ISIS.