(AFP) TEHRAN — Iran’s supreme leader has praised his country’s contribution to the fight against the Islamic State group, saying it had helped destroy a “tumor” created by the United States and its allies.
In an address broadcast on national television, he told a gathering of Basiji militia fighters in Tehran that they had “managed to repel and destroy” IS.
“Successive plots fomented in the region by America, the Zionists, Arab reactionary forces and others have all been thwarted by the force of the Islamic Republic,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said.
“One of these plots took the inhuman form of that apostate group, Daesh,” he said, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
“Thank God, (it) was destroyed by the efforts of pious men and people who had faith in the strength of the resistance,” he said.
“In the region, the Islamic Republic — namely you, the young people — managed to put arrogant America on its knees.”
Iran has sent thousands of fighters to Iraq and Syria to battle IS as well as other Sunni jihadists and Syrian rebel groups.
Iranian “military advisers” have also played a major role supporting the Syrian regime.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday declared “victory” over IS in Iraq and Syria as the jihadists cling to just a few remaining scraps of territory.
Baghdad and Damascus have been more hesitant to declare the fight over, despite having ousted the group from its last urban bastions.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week that France was worried by Iran’s “hegemonic” intentions in the Middle East, but Rouhani said Tehran was “not seeking to dominate” the region.
“Our presence in Iraq and Syria is at the invitation of the governments of these countries to fight against terrorism,” he said.
“Our goal is to work for peace and security and to avoid the dismemberment of countries of the region.”
Saudi Arabia warned Sunday that it would not stand idly by in the face of Iranian “aggression.”