There are no indications that Iran has regular military forces on the ground inside Iraq, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby said today during a Pentagon news conference.
“We know that there are some Iranian operatives — Quds Force operatives — inside Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi security forces, but more critically, Shia militia,” Kirby said. “And we also know that Iran has flowed in some supplies, arms and ammunition, and even some aircraft for Iraq’s armed forces.”
The Quds Force is a special branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, responsible for operations outside of Iran.
Iraq has the right to reach out to its neighbors for support, the admiral said, but the United States is not going to coordinate its military activities with Tehran.
The Defense Department would like anyone who is getting involved in the situation in Iraq “to take the same approach that we’ve taken, which is, don’t do anything to further inflame the sectarian tensions,” Kirby said.
The situation in Iraq is complicated, he noted, and the United States is taking a “measured, deliberate approach” by dividing U.S. forces between two missions: diplomatic security and assessment of the cohesiveness of Iraqi security forces. About 640 troops are divided between the two missions, Kirby said.
The assessment mission includes six teams, based mostly in and around Baghdad, and two joint operations centers — one in Baghdad and one in Irbil, the admiral said. Manned and unmanned intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance flights have increased sharply since the assessment first started, he said, from an initial 30 to 35 daily sorties to about 50 now.
The assessments are nearing the end of their initial phase, which was expected to take two to three weeks, Kirby said.
“We need to let the work finish,” he said. “It’s almost done. The assessments will come up, and then leadership will get a chance to take a look, and we’ll go from there.”