Sunday, August 31, 2014

Iraqi and Kurdish Forces Break Amirli Siege

U.S. Conducted Airstrikes on Islamic State Positions 
The Iraqi and Kurdish security forces today broke Islamic State’s siege of Amirli, a mostly Turkmen town in northern Iraq. The militants had surrounded the town for nearly two months, where the residents had been cut off from food and water for nearly two months. Aircraft from Australia, France, and the UK joined the U.S. in dropping emergency humanitarian aid into the town. The U.S. military also conducted assortments of airstrikes on Islamic State positions around the town.
“Our forces entered Amirli and broke the siege,” said Iraqi military spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassem Atta. (AFP, 31 August)

Photo credit: The United States Air Force parachute riggers assembling 40 container delivery system bundles of water for a humanitarian airdrop over the area of Amirli on Saturday. (U.S. Air Force Central Command – AFCENT)

U.S. and Iran Unlikely Allies in Iraq Battle - Report

“With American bombs raining down from the sky, Shiite militia fighters aligned with Iran battled Sunni extremists over the weekend, punching through their defenses to break the weekslong siege of Amerli, a cluster of farming villages whose Shiite residents faced possible slaughter.”

To read the New York Times story, please click here.

Photo credit: Kurdish Peshmerga fighters fire toward positions held by the Islamic State i during heavy clashes in Tuz Khurmatu, in northern Iraq. Sunday, 31 August 2014 (JM Lopez/European Pressphoto Agency/The New York Times)

This week's observation of IqAAC and IqAF

Iraqi MOD media release depicting IqAAC receiving additional Mil Mi-28NE 'Havoc' (Night Hunter) attack helicopters (expected serials YI-281, YI-282 and YI-283). Seen above is IA lieutenant general, graduate of Iraqi command/staff college.

Iraqi MOD media release depicting IqAAC Mil Mi-8/171E transport helicopters, performing humanitarian operations in relief of Amerli.

Former IRGC-AF Su-25KM close air support aircraft spotted in flight above Baghdad, likely operating out of Rasheed Air Base. Aircraft is seen equipped with B-series rocket pods for use with S-8 type rockets.

IRGC-QF has reportedly established a special control center at Rasheed Air Base, deploying a SIGINT unit and operating Ghods Abibil medium-range reconnaissance/surveillance UAVs.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rouhani: Sanctions Will Not Damage Nuclear Talks

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a press conference in Tehran today that the U.S. action adding entities to the existing sanctions will not damage the on-going talks with world powers. Rouhani, who is expected to attend the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York, said he does not plan to meet with President Obama while visiting the United States.

Rouhani ignored questions about the arrest and continued detention of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post correspondent in Tehran, although congratulated a Chinese journalist for his command of Farsi language.

Rouhani also said that the impeachment of his minister of science by the Majlis would not change the course of his administration. He added that the next minister of science will follow the same path as his impeached predecessor.

Photo: TV screen capture of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's press conference; Tehran, 30 August 2014. (Mashreq News)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Iran claims successful operation of BAVAR-373 long-range SAM system

Above: claimed "Sayyad" missile component of Iran's indegenous Bavar-373 long-range SAM system

According to Fars News Agency:
Senior Iranian military officials announced on Friday that their home-grown version of the Russian S-300 missile defense system, called Bavar (Belief)-373 has already been put into operation and has once shot at a target successfully.
Commander of Khatam ol-Anbia Air Defense Base Brigadier General Farzad Esmayeeli told the Iranian state-run TV that "Bavar-373 has fired a first successful shot".
Lieutenant Commander of the Iranian Army's Self-Sufficiency Jihad Rear Admiral Farhad Amiri said in May, 2013 that Bavar-373 missile defense system had reached the production stage and its subsystems had been tested successfully.
COMMENTARY: Markings at front section of missile indicate this component denoted as "Sayyad."

Iranian media provided additional imagery of claimed Sayyad missile component, as well as images of claimed long-range radar component of BAVAR 373 long-range SAM system (see below).

Interesting timing for this unveiling, given the recent claimed shootdown of an Israeli-manufactured Elbit Hermes 450 medium size multi-payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

Video still from Iranian television providing view of Sayyad missile's rear section (far left) . Note emblem of iran Aerospace Industries Organization (AIO) on missile.

Claimed mobile long-range radar component of BAVAR 373 long-range SAM system

Detail of claimed mobile long-range radar component of BAVAR-373 long-range SAM system

Iranian media referred to this file image as a "mock-up prototype" of the Bavar 373 mobile missile launcher

Photos: Fars News Agency
Video still: IRINN

U.S. Adds 25 Entities to Sanctions List

The United States today added more than 25 businesses, banks and individuals to the list for entities violating the existing sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program and actions to evade those sanctions.

“These measures continue to enforce pre-existing sanctions on Iran. The United States remains committed to working with our P5+1 partners toward a long-term, comprehensive solution that provides confidence that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively peaceful,” National Security Council Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said. (AP, 29 August)

US Treasury Undersecretary David Cohen said in a statement that his department is determined “to take action against anyone, anywhere, who violates our sanctions.”

Among the entities added to the sanctions list today, are Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, Nuclear Science and Technology Research Institute, Jahan Tech-Rooyan Pars, and Mandegar Bespar Kimiya Company.

Five banks were also added to the list of financial institutions already blacklisted: Khavar-e Mianeh Bank, Qavamin Bank, Resalat Qarz-ol Hasaneh Bank, Kish International Bank, and Kafolatbank.

ISF and Shia militias in operations aimed at relieving Amerli

Above: Iraqi Shia "Peace Brigade" militiamen during operations aimed at relieving Amerli

According to AFP:
Iraqi security forces backed by volunteer militiamen on Thursday retook several villages located on the way to the town of Amerli, which jihadists have besieged for months, officers said.
Army Staff Lieutenant General Abdulamir al-Zaidi told AFP that villages north of Al-Adhaim were retaken as part of a major operation aimed at advancing toward Amerli.
Brigadier General Khalaf Jassem confirmed that the villages had been retaken, and like Zaidi put the toll for militants at more than two dozen dead.
In addition to the Iraqi forces advancing toward Amerli from the south, a civilian volunteer commander said that thousands of Shiite militiamen from groups including Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organisation were gathering in the Tuz Khurmatu area, north of Amerli, in preparation for a battle to break the siege.
COMMENTARY: It is being reported Iraqi Aviation is assisting with airstrikes in this operation.

Success in relieving Amerli would provide a boost for ISF ground forces and their Shia militia allies, which, without the level of American CAS recently provided in the north, have encountered difficulties in offensive operations against Islamic State fighters. Success on the battlefield would likely see ramifications for the political situation in Baghdad, as well.

Motorized column of Iraqi Shia "Peace Brigade" militia

Peace Brigade rifleman and RPG gunner, before late model American-built GMC Sierra truck. Interesting to note Iraqi national flags seen regularly included in Shia militia emblemage.

Peace Brigade militiamen appearing better equipped than former days as Mahdi Army

Detail of Iraqi Shia "Peace Brigade" militiamen

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Obama on Islamic State and Strikes Inside Syria

President Barack Obama confirmed that he had asked Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel for options for U.S. military strikes inside Syria targeting forces of the Islamic State. Obama cautioned against expecting imminent action, however, saying he wanted to build a formidable international coalition first.

The president made the comments during a news conference at the White House today.

“We don’t have a strategy (on military action in Syria) yet,” Obama said. “Folks are getting a little further ahead of where we’re at.” (The New York Times, 28 August)

He said he was sending Secretary of State John Kerry to the region to assemble a consensus approach for rolling back the gains by the Islamic State.

“My priority at this point is to make sure that the gains that ISIL made in Iraq are rolled back and that Iraq has the opportunity to govern itself effectively and secure itself,” Obama said.

“Clearly ISIL has come to represent the very worst elements in the region that we have to deal with collectively,” he added. “That’s going to be a long-term project. It’s going to require us to stabilize Syria in some fashion.”

Obama rejected the notion that strikes inside Syria would have the effect of helping President Bashar al-Assad in his brutal and long-running Syrian civil war.

“I don’t think this is a situation where we have to choose,” Obama said. “We have to give people inside Syria a choice other than ISIL or Assad. I don’t see any scenario in which Assad is able to bring peace and stability (to his country.)”

Photo credit: President Barack Obama at his news conference in the White House, 28 August 2014. The photos of the president wearing a tan suit is going viral in social media! (Photo: The New York Times)

Khamenei: Reformist Politicians Have No Place in Governance

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a meeting Wednesday with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and his cabinet warned that “Fitnah” (meaning sedition, a term Khamenei uses for reformist opposition) is the regime’s “red line,” urging Rouhani  to stay clear of the reformists.

Last week, the Majlis impeached the popular minister of science and education, Reza Danai-Far, for appointing reformists to senior positions at his ministry. Reformist leaders, former premier Mir Hossein Mousavi and former speaker of Majlis Mehdi Karrubi, are still detained under “house arrest” nearly five years after leading the reformist or Green movement in 2009.

Khamenei was very clear about the “red line.” No reformist could hold a position of responsibility in the government, and any minister appointing him or her to such positions will be impeached, as was Danai-Far last week. The acceptable voice coming out of Rouhani administration should now approximate that of the hardliners.

Last year, the reformists and moderates supported Rouhani’s election. He won in the first round, carrying 28 of Iran’s 31 provinces, including all major cities. The candidate of the hardliners, Saeed Jalili, won only 11 percent of the popular vote, and could not carry a single province. But it is Jalili’s voice, and those of the hardliners, which is the preferred voice by the supreme leader; and Rouhani is so warned.

File Photo: Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

CENTCOM Commander Visiting Baghdad and Erbil

United States Central Command (CENTCOM) Commander General Lloyd Austin today visited Baghdad and Erbil and held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi and Kurdish President Massoud Barzani.

Kurdish news agency Rudaw said President Barzani and Gen. Austin discussed latest developments in the fight against the Islamic State and the growing number of refugees in Kurdistan.

Iraqi News said that Gen. Austin and Prime Minister-designate Abadi discussed the security situation in Iraq and the region.

“Dr. Al-Abadi stressed the importance of security cooperation between Iraq and the United States,” said a statement issued by the office of the PM-designate. (, 27 August)

Top photo: CENTCOM Commander General Lloyd Austin (center left ) and his delegation meeting with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani (center right) and the Kurdish delegation. Erbil, 27 August 2014 (Rudaw)

Bottom photo: General Lloyd Austin (l.) meeting with Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi. Baghdad, 27 August 2014 (

Iran supplying arms to Kurds in war against IS - Barzani

Above: IRI Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) and President of Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Masoud Barzani shake hands in Arbil, Iraq on 26AUG14.

According to Reuters:
Iran has supplied weapons and ammunition to Iraqi Kurdish forces, Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani said Tuesday at a joint press conference with Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in Arbil, capital of Iraq's Kurdish region.
"We asked for weapons and Iran was the first country to provide us with weapons and ammunition," Barzani said.
The Iranian foreign minister held talks with Barzani on Tuesday, one day after visiting senior Shi’ite clerics in southern Iraq. Zarif acknowledged giving military assistance to Iraqi security forces but said the cooperation did not include deploying ground troops in the country.
"We have no military presence in Iraq," Zarif said. "We do have military cooperation with both the central government and the Kurds in different arenas.”
Neither Zarif nor Barzani gave any details on whether weapons supplied to Kurdish peshmerga forces had been routed through the central government or given directly to Kurdish forces. Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi said Monday that arms given to the peshmerga had been routed through the central government.

- As previously detailed in Uskowi on Iran, there is considerable commonality of weapon and munition types between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan.

- There are historical military ties between Barzani's KDP and Iran's military, including cooperation during Dawn operations of the Iran-Iraq War.

- By virtue of geography, Iraqi Kurdistan in effect provides a buffer between IS fighters and Iran.

- It has been asserted that elements of Iranian Army Takavar special forces are currently assisting Kurdish Peshmerga in the war against Islamic State.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

U.S Coast Guard Boat Fires on Iranian Fishing Boat

Navy Says Iranian Crew Pointed a Machine Gun at American Crew 
The U.S. Navy announced today that a U.S. Coast Guard boat fired at an Iranian fishing dhow in the Persian Gulf after the Iranian boat pointed a machine gun at the American crew.

The incident occurred on Tuesday morning in international waters when a team from the Coast Guard patrol vessel Monomoy was dispatched in the smaller boat to query the Iranian dhow.

“The (Iranian) dhow’s crew trained and prepared to fire a .50 caliber machine gun on the small (Coast Guard) boat as it approached,” the Navy. “This action by the dhow’s crew demonstrated hostile intent.”

The Coast Guard crew then turned away and “fired one round in self-defense,” the Navy added. The dhow crew did not respond when fired upon and left the scene without communicating with the Monomoy.

The Monomoy had earlier established communication with the dhow and determined that it was an Iranian-flagged vessel. The Monomoy is in the Persian Gulf operating with the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

The Pentagon Spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said there was no indication whether the dhow was struck.

File photo: U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Monomoy (WPB 1326) / U/S. Navy/Wikipedia

UAE Bombed Islamist Targets in Libya

Emirati Fighter Jets Used Bases in Egypt
UAE warplanes bombed Islamist militia targets in Libya, as turmoil in the country deepened with the Islamists naming a rival premier. U.S. officials said on Monday that the United Arab Emirates jets launched two attacks in seven days on the Islamists in Tripoli using bases in Egypt. An Emirati official told AFP only that his country had “no reaction” to the report, while Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri yesterday denied any “direct” role by his country. (Kuwait Times, 26 August)

The United States did not take part or provide any assistance in the bombing raids, said U.S. officials. UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have been supporting a renegade general’s campaign against Libyan militant groups. The bombing raids were first reported by the New York Times.

The first strikes, on Monday 18 August, hit militia targets in Tripoli, including a weapons depot. A second round south of the city early Saturday targeted rocket launchers, military vehicles and a warehouse. (The New York Times/Kuwait Times)

File photo: UAEAF F-16E Desert Falcon. (Lockheed Martin/Wikipedia)

Rouhani unveils IAIO achievements at IRI defense capabilities exhibition

IRI President Rouhani recently unveiled four new defense achievements by the Iran Aviation Industries Organization at a defense capabilities exhibition held in Tehran.

Highlights from the event dated 24AUG14 event provided below:

Newly unveiled Karrar-4 ("Striker-4") UCAV, claimed capable of tracking, monitoring and intercepting hostile aircraft

Karrar-4 UCAV "interceptor drone" exhibit

Iranian-built jet powerplant for Karrar-4 UCAV exhibit

Foreground: newly unveiled Nasr-e Basir ("Clear Victory") AShM equipped with IR-seeker system
Background: newly unveiled Ghadir ("Mighty") AShM with claimed range of 300 km

Newly unveiled Mohajer-4 ("Migrant-4") UAV, claimed capable of performing photographic and mapping missions

Simorgh (BL755-type) cluster bomb exhibit

Far left: display of "interchangeable" rocket tube assemblies, standardized for use on Iranian MRLS vehicle platforms

IRIAF Dassault Mirage F1 type multi-role fighter aircraft seen equipped with PL-7 (Magic R.550) AAM

F-5 type aircraft flight deck exhibit, with adapted Zvezda K-36D ejection seat system

Unidentified new Iranian radar type

Photos: Mehr News Agency, Mashregh News Agency, and IRINN

Monday, August 25, 2014

Syria: Islamic State Reportedly Seized Advanced Weapons from Captured Airbase

Islamic State on Sunday captured Tabqa Airbase in Syria, the last government outpost in Raqqa province. Today there are reports that the insurgents might have seized significant amount of weaponry, including a cache of shoulder-fired 9K38 Igla type (SA-16) MANPADS, K-13 type short-range air-to-air missiles and a number of MiG-21 type jet aircraft. 
The Washington Post said this afternoon that the seizure of Tabqa Airbase highlights Islamic State’s “gain in the region and the group’s continued pilfering of advanced military equipment, particularly the surface-to-air missile systems known as MANPADS, short for Man Portable Air Defense Systems.” (The Washington Post, 25 August)
Charles Lister, an analyst at Brookings Doha Center, also twitted today that Islamic State fighters have captured SA-16 MANPADS, AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles, and MIG-21B jets in Tabaqa Airbase. (Twitter/@Charles_Lister, 25 August)

Photo credit: An IS insurgent carrying MANPADS (Twitter/@Charles_Lister)

Islamic State More a Regional Threat – Dempsey

Military Action in Syria if Becoming Threat to U.S.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey told reporters last night that Islamic State insurgents are more of a regional threat, not planning any attacks against U.S. or Europe; and he will recommend direct military action against them in Syria only if they become a threat to the U.S. homeland.

Gen. Dempsey added that U.S. allies in the region, such as Jordan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, will join battle against the IS insurgents. The allies, he said, could come together and squeeze the group “from multiple directions in order to initially disrupt and eventually defeat them. It has to happen with them, much less with us.” (AP/Daily Mail, 25 August)

Dempsey made the comments on a military plane en route to Afghanistan to attend a change of command ceremony on Monday. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford stepping down as the top commander there; Army Gen. John Campbell will take over.

On additional military assistance to Iraq, Gen. Dempsey said there is a possibility to have U.S. forces provide more expanded advice and assistance. He said U.S. military assessment teams looked at about 50 Iraqi brigades and a number of Kurdish units and have good idea which ones have appropriate training and equipment and have not been infiltrated by militia.

To date, U.S. forces have conducted a total of 96 airstrikes across Iraq. The strikes have helped to break the insurgents’ momentum, said Dempsey, and strip some of the mythology that the Islamic State is impregnable or overwhelming.

File photo: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey (AP)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Iran Shoots Down Israeli Drone - IRGC

The IRGC Aerospace Force (IRGC-ASF) announced on its website on Sunday that it has shot down an Israeli drone as it approached Natanz nuclear site. The announcement did not say when it shot down the drone, nor what type of drone was involved in the incident.

Natanz is Iran’s main uranium enrichment facility. Iran’s plans for its future enrichment capacity, however, have been a serious obstacle to a comprehensive agreement with world powers over the future of the country’s nuclear program.

The Israelis have said that if Iran nuclear talks fail to produce an agreement containing the country’s nuclear program, it could take military action to destroy Natanz facility. 

File photo: Israeli Eitan UAV (Arutz Sheva)

Islamic State Captures Major Air Base in Syria

But Defeated in Push to Take Baiji Refinery in Iraq
Islamic State today captured Tabqa Airbase in Syria. The airfield was the last major military outpost controlled by the Syrian government in northeastern Syria. It appears that the government has ceded the control of northeastern region to the Islamic State, and concentrating its war efforts on Western parts of Syria. (CBS, 24 August)

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights first broke the news, which was later confirmed by state-run news agency SANA.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces stopped Islamic State’ push to take the country’s largest refinery in Baiji, which has been shut down since June when battles between the government forces and IS fighters began.

In related news, car bombs killed more than 30 people in Kirkuk, and at least seven in Baghdad. The car bombs in Baghdad coincided with the visit to the Iraqi capital by Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

Photo credit: Islamic State fighters celebrating in Raqqa, Syria, after capturing the Tabqa air Base. (Aljazeera)

Zarif in Baghdad

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif arrived in Baghdad on Sunday to hold talks on the Iraqi crisis with the country’s leadership, including the Prime Minister-designate Haider al-Abadi.

Iran’s relations with Iraq have been primarily conducted by General Soleimani, the Quds Force commander, who has practically lived in Iraq since the current conflict began in June. Zarif’s visit probably signals the return of Iraqi portfolio to the foreign ministry, which is the diplomatic norm.

While Zarif was in Baghdad, the Islamic State insurgents launched a string of attacks across the country, which left at least 35 people dead. The militants renewed their push toward the Baiji refinery, once the country’s largest, supplying some 50 percent of Iraq’s supply of refined petroleum products, but shut down since June as it became the scene of major fighting between the IS insurgents and Iraqi security forces for its control.

Zarif’s visit also come at a delicate time for Abadi’s attempt to form the new Iraqi government. On Friday, suspected Shia militia gunmen massacred 70 Sunni worshippers at Friday prayers in a mosque in Diyala province. The attack threatened to derail Abadi’s negotiations with the Sunnis on the composition of the new cabinet. Abadi, a Shia, has called on all Iraqi citizens “to close rank to deny opportunity to the enemies of Iraq who are trying to provoke strife.”

The timing of the visit also coincided with reports that hundreds of Iranian troops supported by an armored column crossed the Iraqi border and entered the city of Khanaqin on Friday, but retreated after only one day. 

It is not known if the Iranian troops participated in any operation against the Islamic State forces, who control the city of Jalula, near Khanaqin and only 19 miles from the Iranian border. The daylong deployment of Iranian ground forces into Iraq was the first during the current conflict, and could have been a probing maneuver to test the IS defenses and to demonstrate Iran's military ground force capabilities. Iranian armored and infantry divisions are deployed at the border, ready to cross it if ordered.

Photo credit: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif (IRNA)

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Iran Deploys Troops, Armor into Iraq

Troops and Tanks Crossed Border at Khanaqin
Hundreds of Iranian soldiers have taken part in a joint operation inside Iraq with Kurdish Peshmerga forces to retake the city of Jalula held by the Islamic State insurgents, Kurdish security sources have told Al Jazeera.

The Aljazeera report said the Iranian soldiers (most probably Artesh troops) crossed the border at Khanaqin on Friday in the first deployment of ground forces to Iraq during the current conflict. Elements of an Iranian armored brigade also reportedly took part in the operation.

The Kurdish security official told Aljazeera that the Iranian forces retreated back across the border on Saturday. Jalula, fewer than 30km (19 miles) from the Iranian border, is a strategic point for both countries.

A photo of what Uskowi on Iran has identified as an Artesh (regular military) M-60A1 main battle tank aboard tank transporter entering the Iraqi border city of Khanaqin is the first indication that Artesh has intervened in Iraq since the end of Iran-Iraq War of 1980. If Jazeera's report about the armor units and Iranian troops going back to Iran is accurate, it would show that the Iranian military - Artesh- was deployed into Iraq to prevent an ISIL attack on Iran's western region. 

“Previously there had been Iranian assistance with security advisers and Iranian backed militias, but this does seem to be the first time soldiers have been involved,” Al Jazeera's Jane Arraf reported from the Kurdish capital of Erbil. (Aljazeera, 23 August)

Photo: A photo published in social media possibly showing Iranian military (Artesh) ground forces' M-60A1 main battle tanks aboard tank transporters entering the Iraqi border city of Khanaqin. Friday 22 August 2014.

Kurdistan at War with Islamic State

Reported Iranian Ground Forces Deployment
The Peshmerga and Iraqi forces on Friday launched two operations to retake the city of Jalula, in Diyala province, and the town of Sadia, south of Jalula.

Battles of Jalula and Sadia
Islamic State fighters captured Jalula, a strategic town located 19 miles from the Iranian border, on 11 August. Kurdish news agency Rudaw reported today that the Peshmerga has cleared villages and roads on outskirts of Jalula and reached the eastern entrance of the city. There were reports yesterday that U.S. provided close air support to the Peshmerga during the operation.

Mahmoud Sangawi, the commander of the Peshmerga forces in Jalula, said that his troops had begun attacks on IS positions before dawn (on Friday), on the orders of Kurdistan Regional Government of President Massoud Barzani. (Rudaw, 23 August)

Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces backed by AAH Shia militias and elements of PUK’s Peshmerga forces, supported by Iraqi warplanes, opened a second front against the Islamic State in the area by attacking the town of Sadia, south of Jalula. The media reports indicate that those forces have also reached the outskirts of the town.

Iranian Military Involvement
There were reports by Aljazeera and in social media that Iranian ground forces might have started an offensive against the Islamic State in Khanaqin-Jalula-Sadia area. Khanaqin is the major Iraqi city on the Iranian border.

A photo published in social media shows a column of probably M-60A1 main battle tanks of Iranian military ground forces aboard transporters reportedly entering Iraqi territory at Khanaqin. If the report is accurate, the deployed Iranian armored column is probably the first elements of the Iranian Army (Artesh) 181st Armored Brigade, which is based at Sar-e Pol-e Zahab, an Iranian town 40 km from Khanaqin border crossing. But if the tanks are T-55s, it would signal IRGC-GF deployment. In both cases, the armor deployment marks a major escalation of Iranian military involvement in the current conflict in Iraq.

Aljazeera also today that hundreds of Iranian troops have crossed the border at Khanaqin into Iraq to engage Islamic State in Diyala province.

Iran's foreign ministry spokeswoman on Saturday denied that Iran has sent any military force to Iraq. The Iranian foreign ministry in the past three years has routinely denied reports of the presence of any Iranian military personnel in Syria or Iraq.

Iranian Kurds
Kurdish news agency Rudaw also reported today that Iranian Kurdish forces, belonging to the leftist Komolah Party, were deployed to the battlefields at Makhmour, apparently working alongside PKK elements in support of the Peshmerga. Kolmolah said its fighters were working under the command of KRG Peshmerga. The Kurds retook Makhmour with support from U.S. warplanes last week.

File photo: Updated M-60A1 MBT, known in Iran as “Samsam.” An Iranian armored column of M-60A1 main battle tanks reportedly crossed into Iraq at Khanaqin on Friday 22 August 2014. (Photo: Hamid forootan/ISNA)