As U.S. leaders signal a willingness to partner with Iran in the fight against Iraqi terrorists, senior military officials in Tehran are warning of repercussions for the United States if it meddles in Iraq.
The head of Iran’s armed forces on Tuesday called the United States "supporters of terrorists" and warned the Obama administration against any intervention in Iraq, where extremist terrorists are seeking to depose the American-backed government.
Iran’s warning came less than a day after senior Obama administration officials expressed optimism about partnering with Tehran and signals that the White House may be misreading Iran’s intentions in Iraq.
The State Department in recent days has taken heat for ignoring its own warning about Iran’s efforts to destabilize Iraq. U.S. official have instead conducted a full court press to convince the nation that Iran and America have a "shared interest" in the region.
Senior Iranian military and political officials do not share this rosy view and are now issuing warnings to U.S. leaders as the violence in Iraq hits new highs.
Iranian General Hassan Firouzabadi, chief of staff of the country’s armed forces, slammed the United States and blamed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for sponsoring terrorist groups in Iraq and the region.
"By any meddling and military intervention in Iraq, the Americans are seeking to attain ungracious goals, at the top of which undermining the elections in Iraq, and the crocodile tears of the Americans should not receive any attention, as they are still the allies of the sponsors and supporters of terrorists in the region," Firouzabadi was quoted as saying in Tehran on Tuesday by the country’s state-run press.
Clinton’s State Department, the general claimed, "created terrorist groups" and is now "displeased with the results of the recent elections in Iraq and is cancel election results."
Iranian officials say that they can handle the Iraq terror group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) without any U.S. assistance.
"The Iraqi army and nation are mighty enough to overcome terrorists of the ISIL," according to remarks made earlier this week by Iran's deputy foreign minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, who vigorously denied reports that Iranian and U.S. officials are discussing joint tactics in Iraq.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has had no negotiations with the Americans over mutual cooperation in Iraq," Abdollahian was quoted as saying.
Iranian nuclear negotiators in Vienna also denied that the United States and Iran discussed Iraq at any point.
"In negotiations with the Americans, merely the nuclear issue was discussed," Seyed Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and its senior negotiator, said on Monday.
Iran’s Firouzabadi also claimed that the ISIL is an Israeli creation meant to distract the region.
"The ISIL is Israel's cover up for distancing the revolutionary forces from Israeli borders and creating a margin of security for the Zionists, and the Zionist media have also admitted this fact," he was quoted as saying.
The comments by top Iranian officials have drastically differed from those made by leading Obama administration figures.
Secretary of State John Kerry has expressed his openness to teaming with Iran, telling reporters in a recent interview, "We're open to discussions if there is something constructive that can be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and ability of the government to reform."
Following a meeting between Kerry and Iranian officials, a senior State Department official told reporters that the United States remains "open to engaging the Iranians," but would not coordinate militarily with Tehran.
Iran is already gearing up to send assets and potentially troops to Iraq.
"We are ready to help Iraq and if the Iraqi government requests, we will help them; we believe that violence and the terrorist groups should be eliminated from the region," Iranian First Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri said over the weekend.
Multiple U.S. reports indicate that Iran has already sent military assets and commanders to Iraq, though it remains unclear how they might interact with the 275 U.S. troops recently deployed there.