DUBAI, August 28 (RIA Novosti) – Iran is ready to send troops if the Islamic State (IS) Sunni extremist group damages the Iraqi cities of Najaf and Karbala, which are considered sacred by Shiite Muslims, Iran’s Entekhab online newspaper reported Thursday, citing the country’s interior minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.
“President Hassan Rouhani said at a meeting with the government that Iran would deploy elite troops if there is a real threat of the IS approaching these cities [Najaf and Kerbela], in order to protect them. The intervention will be entirely coordinated with the Iraqis and aimed at liquidating the IS,” Fazli was quoted as saying by Entekhab.
Iranian forces are currently carrying out special drills involving aircraft and drones in case they are needed in Iraq, Entekhab reported.
The IS Sunni terrorist group made a name for itself fighting Syrian government forces starting in 2012. Two years later, the group launched an offensive in Iraq, seizing significant territory, including major cities and oilfields in less than a month. Local Sunni extremists and former servicemen in the regime of Saddam Hussein have joined the IS.
The IS advance on Iraqi Kurdistan forced about 700,000 locals, largely ethnic minority Yazidis, flee their homes, according to the UN. Thousands of people are trapped on Mount Sinjar, with limited resources, necessitating humanitarian airdrops by the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States. Washington also began carrying out airstrikes against IS insurgents in August.