WASHINGTON— Iran says it will fight terrorism in neighboring Iraq following the quick capture of several Iraqi cities this week by the Sunni Muslim militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
On state TV Thursday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said “As a state, we will not tolerate violence and terror. We fight against terrorism, violence and radicalism, as we have announced that at the United Nations general session.”
However, he did not give specifics on how Shi'ite-majority Iran might support the Shi'ite-led government in Iraq. Iran’s National Security Council met Thursday to discuss Iraq, but there was no news as to what it decided.
The deputy commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, predicted the Sunni Islamist militia in Iraq is going to lose “very soon.” Salami also said the U.S. and its Western allies are to blame for the situation in Iraq, saying their military intervention in the region had destabilized it.
Some Iranians are taking to social media to call for more action to keep Iraqi cities safe from possible seizure by Sunni insurgents.
Posting to a VOA Farsi Instagram account, one Iranian commented “We are not going to allow Sunni militants to take over Shi’ite cities.”
Another wrote on Facebook, “Mehrdad: [the Sunni insurgents] only attacked with the goal to plunder arms from Iraqi cities because it did not have the ability to fight long term. They will return to Syria with the spoils it received to start a new round of conflict in Syria.
A third person wrote on Instagram, “Amin: Iraq and Syria have become the playground of Iran and Saudi Arabia. With consideration I don’t have a good relationship with this government, in this hard situation and world isolation, Arab Salafis are rivals. We shouldn’t allow the dirty hands of extremist groups to reach Karbala and Najaf."
The Iranian newspaper Kayhan, closely aligned with Iran's Supreme Leader, said that the Sunni militants who took over Mosul and several other cities in Iraq would be beaten by the Iraqi government.
A reformist newspaper, Shargh, said because Iran and the U.S. are discussing Iran’s nuclear program and seemed close to an agreement, the Saudi government had been made unhappy, a claim alluding to Saudi rivalry with Iran and support for Sunni rebels in Syria.
Another reformist newspaper, Etemad, ran an article written by the Iraqi Kurdistan representative to Iran, Nazim Dabagh, in which he blames Iraq's intelligence service for not understanding the real threat the insurgents represented. He said 80 to 90 percent of city residents supported the Sunni insurgents in Iraq.
The newspaper Javan, which belongs Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, said the U.S. is responsible for what is happening in Iraq now.
Iranian opposition groups are generally against the Sunni insurgents and have concerns about the situation in Iraq, but also they blame Iran's government because of its role in Syria and Iraq and its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, both of whom are Shi’ites. They say this Iranian support has led to more conflict between the Shi’ites and Sunnis of those two countries.
This report was produced in collaboration with the Persian News Network.