In what served as a confirmation of troop presence in Iraq, Iranian state media reported the death of an Iranian military pilot defending the city of Samarra, Iraq from jihadists associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, now rebranded as simply “Islamic State”).
The Washington Post reported that Iranian state media confirmed the death of a pilot, identified by the Fars News Agency as Colonel Shoja’at Alamdari Mourjani, during a military operation in Samarra, home to several Shi’ite holy sites. IRNA News, the official Iranian state news agency, did not provide details on how the pilot died. Al Jazeera reports, that no signs of a plane crash were visible in the area at the time in which the Colonel was said to have been killed, indicating that he was likely killed while fighting on the ground.
The Shi’ite Iranian government has made public overtures to the government of Iraq, offering help to drive off the threat of ISIS and urging the U.S. government to help Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The death of a soldier in Iraq confirms definitively, however, that Iranian combat troops are in Iraq — a fact that comes as Iran argues its aid to the Iraqi nation was in the form of ammunition and military advisory troops.
Reports surfaced in June that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard was on the ground in Tikrit, fighting ISIS jihadists before the group announced a definitive takeover of the city. The calls for intervention escalated as ISIS appeared to gain ground in Iraq. That very week, the Iranian government officially stated they “may be willing to cooperate with Washington in helping Baghdad fight back,” and urged the U.S. to intervene.
The Iranian government has not only sought the help of the U.S. This week, Iranian and Russian officials met in Moscow to discuss the instability in Iraq, with Iranian officials describing bilateral relations as “good.”
“The situation in the region develops quickly and requires intensive discussions. I believe that we’ll discuss the processes in the region in a sincere atmosphere,” said Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov.