Iran has delivered weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to support their ongoing fight against the Islamic State (IS) militants in northern Iraq.
In a joint press conference with the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif in Arbil, Kurdish President Massoud Barzan said: "We have asked for weapons and military supplies from states worldwide, and the Islamic Republic of Iran was the first to assist us with weapons and equipment."
Zarif acknowledged that Iran has provided military assistance to Kurdish fighters and has military cooperation with both the Iraqi Government and the Kurds, but denied allegations that Iranian troops have been deployed to Iraq.
Zarif was quoted by Agence-France Presse as saying: "The Iraqi people require assistance, including defence assistance, but not soldiers. … We do not have any soldiers in Iraq [and] we don’t intend to send soldiers to Iraq."
However, Zarif and Barzani did not comment on the type of weapon deliveries.
Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi was quoted by Reuters as saying that arms supplied to the Peshmerga had been routed through the central government.
According to media reports, several Iranian soldiers have been spotted fighting in Iraq, indicating a more direct military role by Tehran.
In July, Iran’s state-run Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Iranian pilot colonel Shoja’at Alamdari Mourjani was killed while protecting Shia holy sites in Samarra, north of Baghdad.
The Iranian Air Force is believed to have deployed several Su-25 ground-attack aircraft to Iraq in July, and has also been flying Ababil drones from Rasheed Air Base in Baghdad since June.
As well as Iraq, France, Germany, Italy and the US and UK have promised to provide military assistance to Kurdish forces, who have captured several major Iraqi cities since June.
Image: Peshmerga fighters on a T-55-tank outside Kirkuk, Iraq. Photo: courtesy of Boris Niehaus.