Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards are fighting alongside Iraqi troops against militants in northern Iraq.
Iran has sent more than 500 Revolutionary Guard troops to fight alongside Iraqi government security forces in Diyala province, a senior security official in Baghdad told CNN.
Meanwhile, President Barack Obama on Thursday threatened US military strikes in Iraq against Sunni Islamist militants who have surged out of the north to menace Baghdad and want to establish their own state in Iraq and Syria.
Iraqi Kurdish forces took advantage of the chaos to take control of the oil hub of Kirkuk as the troops of the Shiite-led government abandoned posts, alarming Baghdad's allies both in the West and in neighboring Shiite regional power Iran.
“I don't rule out anything because we do have a stake in making sure that these jihadists are not getting a permanent foothold in either Iraq or Syria,” Obama said at the White House when asked whether he was contemplating air strikes. Officials later stressed that ground troops would not be sent in.
Obama was looking at “all options” to help Iraq's leaders, who took full control when the U.S. occupation ended in 2011. “In our consultations with the Iraqis, there will be some short-term immediate things that need to be done militarily,” he said.
A U.S. defense official said the United States had been flying surveillance drones over Iraq to help it fight the militant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
However, a Saudi Prince blamed the Iraqi government of Nuri Al Maliki for the loss of wide areas of northern Iraq to militants, saying Baghdad had failed to stop them joining forces with former Baathists from the Saddam Hussein era.
Prince Turki Al Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence Chief, said the radical ISIL insurgency should have come as no surprise. He added that the situation in Iraq was changing so swiftly that it was impossible to say what would happen in coming days and weeks. But he said it could lead to some unexpected outcomes if the US became involved in the fighting three years after its occupation of Iraq ended in 2011.
“One of the distinct potential ironies that may come about is to see Iranian Revolutionary Guards fighting with American drones to kill Iraqis. This is something that will boggle the mind and make one wonder where we are going,”
he said in Rome while emphasizing that Saudi Arabia firmly opposed ISIL, noting that it was on Saudi list of terrorist organizations.