A top Iranian general and 70 of his forces were on the ground in Iraq this summer, helping Kurdish fighters defend the regional capital Irbil against Islamic State militants, a senior commander from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said Wednesday.

The commander’s remarks appeared to confirm for the first time that Iranian military forces are playing a battlefield role alongside Iraqis against the Islamic State extremist group, though it was not clear whether they were involved in combat or merely serving as advisers. Iran has said it provides advice to Iraq’s government but has denied sending combatants or weapons.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who runs the Guard’s aerospace division, said top Gen. Ghasem Soleimani was instrumental in preventing the fall of Irbil. […]