Iran would consider working with its long-standing foe the United States in combating Sunni militants in Iraq, Iranian president Hassan Rohani said Saturday, as Washington ordered an aircraft carrier moved into the Gulf in case of military action.
“We all should practically and verbally confront terrorist groups,” Rohani told a press conference broadcast live on state television.
Asked if Tehran would work with Washington in tackling advances by Sunni insurgents in Iraq, he replied: “We can think about it if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere.”
Rohani, a relative moderate who has presided over a thaw in Iran’s relations with the West, added that Tehran stood ready to provide help to Iraq within the framework of international law, but so far Baghdad had not requested such assistance.
“If the Iraqi government and nation ask for our help, we will review it. So far there has not been such a request,” he said. “We are ready to help in the framework of international regulations and laws.”
“We have always helped to secure stability in the region, whether in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the region.”
Rohani: ISIS getting Western support
Shiite Muslim Iran has been alarmed by the seizure this week of several major northern Iraqi towns by a Sunni Islamist insurgency led by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
ISIS’s forces have swept southward to within an hour’s drive of Baghdad, and not far from the Iranian border.
The security forces of the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, have struggled to offer much resistance and have abandoned positions in a number of towns attacked by the insurgents.
Rohani on Saturday said ISIS was getting financial and political backing and weaponry from some regional countries and some powerful Western states.
He named no countries, but was alluding in part to Sunni Gulf Arabs who Iran suspects has funneled support to the group.
“Where did ISIS come from? Who is funding this terrorist group? We had warned everyone, including the West, about the danger of backing such a terrorist and reckless group,” he said.
Gulf Arab governments deny any role in backing ISIS, noting that the group has long battled Saudi Arabia’s allies among other Sunni rebel factions in Syria.
US moves aircraft carrier to Gulf
Rohani’s comments came as the US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered to head to the Gulf, readying it in case Washington decides to pursue a military action in Iraq.
“The order will provide the Commander-in-Chief additional flexibility should military options be required to protect American lives, citizens and interests in Iraq,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
The carrier USS George HW Bush, moving from the North Arabian Sea, will be accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea and the guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun, the statement said. It added the ships were expected to complete their transit into the Gulf later on Saturday.
On Friday, President Barack Obama suggested the US was prepared to offer Iraq military assistance, but only if the government in Baghdad also made a "sincere" effort to address the deep sectarian divisions that are fuelling the insurgency.
Any action that we may take to provide assistance to Iraqi security forces has to be joined by a serious and sincere effort by Iraq's leaders to set aside sectarian differences, to promote stability and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq's communities, and continue to build the capacity of an effective security force," Obama said.
"We can't do it for them," Obama said. "And in the absence of this type of political effort, short-term military action – including any assistance we might provide – won't succeed.”
However, he ruled out sending in US troops. We will not be sending US troops back into combat in Iraq,” he said.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-06-14