Iranian fighter jets have begun bombing the Islamic State in Iraq and France said it will increase aerial bombardments against the jihadists as the U.S.-led coalition met for the first time since the group began conquering large territory in Iraq and Syria, reports The Washington Times.
The Obama administration welcomed Iran’s participation and France ramping up its involvement despite bipartisan criticism that it is counting too much on other countries to combat the Islamic Sate (IS, ISIS, or ISIL), notes the Times.
Iran’s participation in the international campaign against ISIS would be a “net positive,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, reports The Washington Times, adding that the Arab country is not officially part of the U.S.-led coalition. The U.S. lists Iran as one of the world biggest state sponsors of terrorism.
Obama administration officials deny coordination between Washington and Tehran and says none is forthcoming anytime soon. In October, Obama sent a “secret letter” to Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei allegedly focused on proposals to cooperate in combating ISIS.
French President Francois Hollande, after a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in Paris earlier this week, said France is ready to “carry out quick and efficient actions” in support of Iraqi troops.
Last week, France said it would add six fighter jets to the 12 French aircraft already participating in the U.S.-led airstrikes against ISIS.
Hollande did not comment on Iran bombing ISIS targets in Iraq.
Iran denied launching airstrikes against ISIS.
The Washington Times points out that a reason may be Iran’s “tense relations” with the Sunni majority Arab nations participating in the international campaign against the jihadists– namely Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar. Iran is a Shiite majority country.
“U.S. military officials said Iranian fighter jets have begun pounding Islamic State targets on the Iraqi side of the Iran-Iraq border, marking the first time since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 that Iran has deployed its fighter jets for such missions,” reports the Times.
“A senior Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Iranian pilots flew four McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II jets, presumably purchased from the U.S. decades ago,” it added.
Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, told CNN that there were “indications” that the Iranian may have launched airstrikes against ISIS targets in eastern Iraq.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.