The US and its allies are behind the rising threat of Islamist militants in the Middle East, an Iranian general charged Saturday, declaring that Iran would react aggressively to any threats to its borders.
The comments by Deputy Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Brig. Gen. Masoud Jazayeri came less than two weeks after the US and Iran discussed the possibility of joining forces to thwart the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“The presence of militants in Iraq should be considered as a full-fledged plot devised by world powers and their lackeys, with the US leading these powers,” Jazayeri said in an interview with state-owned Arabic radio station Al-Alam, according to the official Iranian PressTV.
Iraq has been combating an offensive by ISIL that has overrun swaths of five provinces, killed nearly 1,100 people, displaced hundreds of thousands and threatens to tear the country apart.
Both Iran and US, as well as other regional players, see the group, which broke off from al-Qaeda for being too extreme, as a threat.
US President Barack Obama has so far refrained from carrying out airstrikes on the insurgents, as urged by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, but American military advisers began meeting Iraqi commanders Wednesday, with Washington having offered up to 300 military advisers.
Iran has already sent troops into Iraq, and Jazayeri insisted that Iran was ready to provide assistance to its war-torn neighbor. Tehran has been a staunch backer of al-Maliki’s Shiite led government.
Regarding the possibility of ISIL turning its eyes to Iran as a target, Jazayeri said that Iran is ready to repel any attack against its borders.
“Certainly the terrorist groups and even their supporters will be confronted seriously [if they threaten the Iranian borders],” the semi-official Fars news quoted Jazayeri as saying in the interview. “Our confrontation [with the terrorists] is certain and serious; we don’t have any little ambiguity and uncertainty in this regard and we certainly won’t allow them to approach our borders or enter them.”
While Iran has been beefing up security along its borders, several Iranian military officials have publicly stated that ISIL has yet to make a move.
“Security is in place along the northwestern borders and no aggression has been made by the ISIL Takfiri terrorist group,” General Hossein Zolfaqari told his troops in Iran’s Northwestern Province of West Azarbaijan on Wednesday, according to Fars.
AFP contributed to this report.