Iran is coming to the aid of its historic nemesis, sending elite fighters to Iraq in the wake of a Sunni insurgency that has claimed two key northern cities and now threatens Baghdad, Fox News has learned.
Some 150 fighters from the Revolutionary Guards elite Quds force have already been dispatched by Tehran, and the division’s powerful commander, Qassem Suleimani, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday and pledged to send two notorious Iranian brigades to aid in the defense of Baghdad. That could amount to as many as 10,000 soldiers sent to fight the Sunni group known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).
Maliki is believed to be considering the offer, especially in light of reported decisions by the U.S. to reject his request for American airstrikes against the Al Qaeda-affiliated militants who have recently overrun Mosul and Tikrit and appear to be preparing for a march on the capital. The two brigades that Suleimani offered are Asaab Ahel Haq, a Shi’ite paramilitary unit, and the Shi’ite insurgency group Kata’ib Hezbollah.
After U.S.-trained security forces dropped their weapons and fled their posts in Mosul, the regime in Baghdad has reason to fear for its survival, an intelligence official said.
“Baghdad is going to be overrun,” he said. “The Green Zone is going down.”
Although Iran and Iraq were at war in the 1980s, both the Maliki regime and the rulers in Tehran are Shi’ite, and Iran does not want a fanatical jihadist takeover of its neighbor. Iran has positioned troops along its border with Iraq and has threatened to bomb opposition forces if they come within about 60 miles of Iran’s border, according to an Iranian army general.
News about the fall of these two cities, which caused about 500,000 to flee, worried Iran. Mosul is in the western Iraqi province of the Biblically-mentioned Nineveh, which shares a 300-mile border with Syria, where the Iranian government has been pulling the political and financial puppet strings to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power against the opposing rebels and militants.
In addition to protecting the strategic border to Syria, Iran’s government has interests in safeguarding holy shrines and sites in Najaf and Karbala, significant to the Shiite Islamic religion. Many Iranians make pilgrimage to these sites every year.
Predominantly Shiite Muslim Iran will combat the “violence and terrorism” of Sunni extremists who have launched an anti-government offensive in neighboring Iraq, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani warned on Thursday…. see more