World Bulletin / News Desk
The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Iran is helping Baghdad in its fight against rebels loyal to the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) by sending secretly flying surveillance drones over Iraq and sending military equipment to them.
The newspaper citing anonymous US officials said on its website that a "small fleet" of Ababil drones was deployed to the Al Rashid airfield near Baghdad.
An intelligence unit was installed at the airfield to intercept electronic communications between ISIL fighters and commanders by Tehran.
Ababil drones are used for surveillance and are unarmed. They are designed in Iran and have a nearly 10-foot (three-meter) wingspan.
The paper said that about a dozen officers of Iran's paramilitary Quds Force, have also been sent to Iraq to advise Iraqi commanders and help mobilize pro-government militias in the south of the country.
Iran is also sending two flights daily that consists 70 tons each of military equipment and supplies to Baghdad.
"It's a substantial amount" of material, a US official told the newspaper. "It's not necessarily heavy weaponry, but it's not just light arms and ammunition."
The New York Times added that Tehran has massed 10 divisions of its army and its Quds Force troops along the border, ready to act if the Iraqi capital or Shiite Muslim shrines are threatened.
Asked at a briefing, US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said she "can't confirm the specifics in those reports."
But she said "anyone in the region shouldn't do anything that might exacerbate sectarian divisions, that would fuel extremism inside Iraq."
The United States has for two weeks said Iranian aid for the Iraq crisis should not fuel the Sunni and Shiite conflict.
We "believe Iran could play a constructive role if it's helping to send the same message to the Iraqi government that we're sending," Harf said.
The United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people have been displace along with at least 1,075 people killed, and 658 wounded in Iraq between June 5 and 22.Last Mod: 26 Haziran 2014, 13:09