December 22, 2014
Iran's Khameini rejects US action in Iraq, ISIL tightens border grip
Iran's supreme leader accused the United States of trying to retake control of Iraq by exploiting sectarian rivalries, as Sunni insurgents drove toward Baghdad from new strongholds along the Syrian border.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's condemnation of US action came three days after President Barack Obama offered to send 300 military advisers to help the Iraqi government. Khamenei may want to block any US choice of a new prime minister after grumbling in Washington about Shi'ite premier Nuri al-Maliki.
The supreme leader did not mention the Iranian president's recent suggestion of cooperation with Shi'ite Tehran's old USadversary in defense of their mutual ally in Baghdad.
Today, militants overran a second frontier post on the Syrian border, extending two weeks of swift territorial gains as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) pursues the goal of its own power base, a "caliphate" straddling both countries that has raised alarm across the Middle East and in the West.
"We are strongly opposed to US and other intervention in Iraq," IRNA news agency quoted Khamenei as saying. "We don’t approve of it as we believe the Iraqi government, nation and religious authorities are capable of ending the sedition."
Some Iraqi observers interpreted his remarks as a warning not to try to pick its own replacement for Maliki, whom many in the West and Iraq hold responsible for the crisis. In eight years in power, he has alienated many in the Sunni minority that dominated the country under ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.
Khamenei has not made clear how far Iran itself will back Maliki to hold on to his job once parliament reconvenes following an election in which Maliki's bloc won the most seats.