On Nov. 30, Al Jazeera aired grainy footage obtained by local Iraqi media on Nov. 24 of an F-4 Phantom jet striking Islamic State (IS) targets in eastern Iraq. The report led to speculation of whether Iran was conducting bombings inside Iraq and denials by both the United States and Iran of cooperation between the two countries.
Jane’s Defense Weekly reported, “Iran and Turkey are the only regional operators of the F-4, and the location of the incident not far from the Iranian border, and Turkey’s unwillingness to get involved in the conflict militarily, indicate this to be an Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force … aircraft.” Iran had purchased the American aircraft before the 1979 revolution, when Iran and the United States were on friendly terms.
While Iran and the United States both remain committed to fighting a common enemy in IS, they have both rejected working with one another in Iraq to do so.
Following reports of the jet in Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said that the United States was not coordinating airstrikes with Iran, but “We have indications that they did indeed fly airstrikes with F-4 Phantoms in the past several days.” Kirby said that since it is Iraqi airspace, it would be Iraq’s responsibility to avoid overlap between US and Iranian aircraft.
An anonymous Iranian official denied to Reuters that Iran had conducted any airstrikes.
Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, neither confirmed nor denied that Iran was conducting air bombings against IS inside Iraq. In a Dec. 2 interview with Fars News, Jazayeri denied any cooperation with the US-led coalition.
Jazayeri said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran knows America to be the cause of unrest and problems in Iraq and the terrorist activities of IS and believes that if it were not for the plans and support of America and reactionaries in the region, today, the world would not witness the destruction of cities and villages and the slaughtering of people by terrorists in Iraq and Syria.”
Jazayeri said that the Iraqi army and volunteer forces had many successes fighting IS and “foreign terrorists” and “America will have no place in the future of this country.”
On the claims by the Pentagon that Iran was conducting airstrikes against IS inside Iraq, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marzieh Afkham said, “There has been no change in Iran’s policy in regard to helping and advising Iraqi officials in their fight against takfiris and IS. And I will not confirm news about cooperation on a military matter.”
Both Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on state matters, have rejected cooperating with one another in the fight against IS. While there are many countries in its coalition, participation in the US-led airstrikes has been limited to Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, primarily Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.