Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during an Aug. 24 press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari in Baghdad. (Ahmed Saad / AP)
Crisis in Iraq
BAGHDAD — Iran sees no need to send fighters to help the Iraqi government battle the Islamic State group, even as Sunni militants inch closer to the Iraq-Iran border, its top diplomat said Sunday.
Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad, Mohammed Javad Zarif said the Sunni militant group is committing “horrendous genocide and crimes against humanity,” and that Tehran is cooperating with both the Iraqi governments in Baghdad and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region to repel the threat.
“Our Iraqi brothers, Kurdish and Arab, are quite capable of defending their territory, defending their dignity and fighting terrorism,” Zarif said, standing alongside his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari.
“We do not believe that we need to be present inside Iraq to help our Iraqi brothers. They are very capable of doing that themselves,” he added.
An offensive by the Islamic State group across northern and western Iraq has plunged the country into its biggest crisis since the U.S. military pulled out in 2011. This month, the Sunni militant group pushed eastward, taking control of the town of Jalula in Iraq’s Diyala province, located some 30 kilometers from the Iranian border.
At least 64 people were also killed in an attack on a Sunni mosque in Diyala on Friday, with officials releasing conflicting reports that the perpetrators were either Sunni militants or Shiite militiamen.
When the group overran the cities of Mosul and Tikrit in June, Iraqi security forces virtually collapsed. In most cases, police and soldiers simply ran, abandoning arsenals of heavy weapons. The U.S. military launched airstrikes in Iraq on Aug. 8 to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces combat the militant threat.
At the press conference Sunday, Zebari told journalists Iraq has “no shortage of fighters.”
“This confrontation needs help from everyone — all the forces against terrorism, against extremism, and we have, overall, appreciated the role of the international community,” Zebari added.
Meanwhile in northwestern Baghdad Sunday, a car bomb tore through the crowded Shiite district of Shula, killing 8 people and wounding 17, police officials said. Hospital officials confirmed the casualty figures. Both spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to brief the media.
Associated Press reporter Murtada Faraj in Baghdad contributed to this report.