Home inContext Iran Bombs IS Targets in Iraq

Iran Bombs IS Targets in Iraq

Michael Johnson

Iranian fighter jets launched airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq late last week. Even as Tehran and Washington both work to combat IS, Iran has not been included in the U.S.-led coalition fighting the militants.

A file photo showing U.S.-made Iranian Phantom F4 jet fighters flying over Tehran. (Photo: AFP)

Footage released Sunday on al-Jazeera’s website reportedly shows an Iranian Air Force (IRIAF) F-4 Phantom II jet bombing targets in Iraq’s eastern Diyala province. Since only Turkey and Iran operate the F-4 in the region, and Ankara has been unwilling to engage in the military campaign against IS, analysts at Jane’s Defense Weekly concluded the IRIAF is behind the strikes.

During a briefing on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesperson Rear Adm. John F. Kirby said he had “no reason” not to believe the planes were from the Islamic Republic, but referred reporters to consult the Iranian government. American military officials confirmed privately that Iran launched raids on IS targets in late November. At a high level meeting of more than 60 coalition partners confronting IS, Secretary of State John Kerry seemed to encourage Tehran’s military intervention saying that any such action against the jihadists would have a “positive” net effect. American diplomats and their Iranian counterparts had discussed fighting IS on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations, but U.S. diplomats stressed they have not coordinated with IRIAF.

Following the advance of Sunni extremists in Iraq earlier this year, the Iranian government has increased its military support for the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. After the fall of Mosul, Tehran sent Soviet-era Su-25 fighter jets to help its Arab neighbor. However, without an indigenous air force capacity, analysts suspect the Iraqi-registered warplanes are being flown by Iranian pilots. Since June, Iran has been flying unmanned reconnaissance drones over Iraq as well as delivering weapons directly through Baghdad airport.