Iran’s Khamenei strongly opposes US intervention in Iraq
Supreme Leader says Iraqis themselves could end sectarian violence
Children watch a show of force rally by the Shia Madhi Army paramilitary force in Baghdad yesterday. Photograph: Tyler Hicks/The New York Times
Iran’s top leader rejected possible intervention in Iraq by the United States or any other outside power, accusing Washington of trying to manipulate Iraqi sectarian differences to retake control of the country it once occupied.
In remarks published by the official IRNA news agency today, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei added that Iraqis themselves could end violence in their country, where Iran has steadily built up its own influence over the past decade.
“American authorities are trying to portray this as a sectarian war, but what is happening in Iraq is not a war between Shia and Sunnis,” said the ayatollah, who has the last word in all matters in Shia Muslim Iran.
“It is indeed the same old hegemonic order using leftovers of the Saddam (Hussein) regime as its key pieces, and the Takfiri dogmatic elements as foot soldiers,” he told judiciary officials, using a term referring to Sunni Islamist militants.
Masked jihadists of the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) have captured swathes of northern Iraq this month, aiming to create an Islamic Caliphate which ignores boundaries set by colonial powers a century ago.
The advance has been driven by an amalgam of Sunni tribal and Islamist militias, and former officers of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party, united in hatred of the Shia-led government, which they accuse of marginalising their sect. But Isis has spearheaded the revolt and assaults on cities and towns.
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has said his countrymen will not hesitate to defend Shia shrines in Iraq if need be, but he has also said, like Ayatollah Khamenei, that Iraqis are capable of doing that job themselves.
Thousands of Shia Iraqis have responded to calls to take up arms and defend the country against the insurgency.
Ayatollah Khamenei said he was strongly opposed to intervention by the United States or other countries in Iraq, adding Washington wanted to re-establish control over the oil-exporting country.
“The US is seeking an Iraq under its hegemony and ruled by its stooges,” he was quoted as saying.
Ayatollah Khamenei made no mention of possible co-operation with the United States on Iraq, an idea that Mr Rouhani, in answer to a question at a June 14th news conference, said Tehran might consider if Washington tackled “terrorist groups” in the region.
President Barack Obama offered up to 300 Americans on June 19th to help c-ordinate the fight against Isis, but he also urged Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki, an ally of Iran, to do more to heal the country’s sectarian rift.
Mr Obama held off granting a request for air strikes from Mr Maliki’s Shia -led government, but earlier this month he ordered an aircraft carrier into the Gulf, readying it in case Washington decides to pursue a military option.