Iraq conflict: Iran's Rouhani 'ready to help'


Iran is ready to assist the Iraqi government in its battle against extremist Sunni insurgents, President Hassan Rouhani has said.
But he denied Iran had sent troops into Iraq to help bolster Iraqi government forces' defences.
The insurgents - from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) - have seized the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and are moving closer to Baghdad.
They regard Iraq's Shia majority as "infidels".
Iran has close ties with the Shia-dominated Iraqi leadership which came to power after the toppling of President Saddam Hussein, whose powerbase was the country's Sunni minority.
ISIS is a hardline Islamist militant group that grew during the US-led occupation and is one of several jihadist militias fighting the rule of Bashar al-Assad in neighbouring Syria.
"If the Iraqi government asks us for help, we may provide any assistance the Iraqi nation would like us to provide in the fight against terrorism," said President Rouhani at a news conference to mark the first anniversary of his victory in Shia Iran's presidential election.
"However, the engagement of Iranian forces has not been discussed. Providing help and being engaged in operations are different."
Answering a question from the BBC, he said that so far the Iraqi government had not requested help from Iran.
President Rouhani did not rule out co-operating with Iran's traditional foe the United States in combating ISIS: "We can think about if we see America starts confronting the terrorist groups in Iraq or elsewhere."
According to unnamed sources quoted by both the the Wall Street Journal and CNN, Iran has already sent several elite units of its Revolutionary Guard to help Iraq, but Iranian officials have denied this. More...