President Rouhani Denies Iranian Troops in Iraq

News Brief — June 14, 2014

While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has denied reports in the Western media that Iran has deployed troops in Iraq he has signalled his readiness to cooperate with other nations in halting the advance of Sunni extremists in Iraq.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that nearly 2,000 members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard had deployed in Iraq last Wednesday to help halt the insurgents advance toward Baghdad.
In addition to cooperating with neighbouring states, Rouhani has also signalled Iran’s willingness to assist arch-enemy America, should Washington decide to take action against insurgents who threaten Baghdad.
Despite Rouhani’s denying alleged Iranian troop deployments in Iraq, credible reports have nonetheless appeared indicating that a group of senior Revolutionary Guards commanders have flown into Baghdad.
They are thought to be overseeing and advising efforts to strengthen the defences of the capital and the northern holy city of Samarra, and helping to organise and co-ordinate Iraqi Shia militia groups which are loyal to Iran.
They are also being viewed as a potential advance guard who could oversee the possible influx of a much larger deployment, should Tehran decide.
For the time being however, Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has ordered the country’s forces to make a stand against advancing Sunni militants at the city of Samarra, 78 miles north of Baghdad. The choice of Samarra, a historic city that is home to an 8th mosque, highlights the sectarian nature of the conflict that has divided Muslims in Iraq and neighbouring Syria.
As the West examines its options for action in Iraq, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush into the Persian Gulf ready for air strikes should Obama so decide.
Meanwhile, the unfolding conflict in Iraq has re-ignited controversy over Bush and Blair’s original decision to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Home Office minister Norman Baker, a Liberal Democrat who is a longstanding opponent of the Iraq War, told the Mail on Sunday:
‘The reality is that the intervention by Tony Blair and George Bush has destabilised this country and left it open to extremism, and we are seeing that now. Iraq today is Tony Blair’s legacy.’
Meanwhile Conservative MP John Baron, who resigned from his party’s front bench to vote against the Iraq conflict, said recent events in Iraq illustrated the consequences of intervention.
‘One of the dangers of invading Iraq is that we underestimated the religious tensions and the resources needed to leave robust structures in place when the West left. A weakened Iraq was always going to be more susceptible to extremism,’ he said.
‘Other examples include Libya, and possibly Afghanistan. In Libya, a weak central Government has been unable to establish its authority over militias. In Afghanistan, Western confidence that the Afghan security forces will be able to hold the line surely needs re-evaluating after these events.”
‘All in all, such developments once again bring into question the wisdom of our recent interventions.’

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