MIDDLE EAST

Iran general: Army needs more funds to counter ISIS

In this Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013 file photo, head of the elite Quds force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, Qassem Soleimani, attends a meeting of the commanders of the Revolutionary Guard. (AP)

A senior Iranian military official told parliament on Sunday the armed forces need a bigger budget to confront the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group whose influence is growing in neighboring countries.

“We have to face a new threat in the region. Terrorist groups are close to our borders,” General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan who commands Iran’s ground forces told parliament, media reported.

“Today we see the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.

Iran’s army and its elite Revolutionary Guards must be strengthened to be able “to buy tanks, transport vehicles and to overhaul our helicopters,” he was quoted as saying.

ISIS, which has seized chunks of Syria and Iraq to the west of Iran has also gained a foothold in its eastern neighbors Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Iranian general, who warned that “the battle is on the ground,” did not say by how much the defense budget should be increased.

For the fiscal year ending in March 2016, the defense budget was increased by more than 30% to reach some $10 billion dollars. In addition, the armed forces receive $1.2 billion from sovereign funds.

Pourdastan told parliament that when ISIS launched its offensive in Iraq in June last year jihadists advanced to Jalula, just 40 kilometers from the Iranian border.

“In less than three days, we sent five brigades to the borders and our reconnaissance helicopters penetrated 40 kilometers into Iraq,” Pourdastan added.

Meanwhile, Iran has reportedly sent troops to Iraq to fight ISIS militants, U.S. defense officials said, according to the Associated Press.

The Islamic Republic, which sent small troops to allow Iraqi forces retake the major oil refinery of Beiji, also sent heavy weapons for Iraqi ground forces, one of the officials said.

Iran has stepped up its efforts in the Beiji Operation in recent days, the two officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

U.S. President Barack Obama said his country does not oppose the intervention of Iran in the Iraqi conflict as long as it operates under the control of Iraq’s government.

On Friday, a U.S. military statement said that Iraqi security forces and federal police have made “steady, measured progress” in regaining some parts of Beiji refinery compound.

The statement added that all forces involved in Beiji are “aligned with the government of Iraq” and under the control of Iraqi security forces.

However, it did not mention Iran’s role on the Beiji operation.

ISIS launched their fiercest attack on the Beiji refinery last month and now control large parts of the complex, according to Reuters.

The latest fighting has inflicted damage that will take years to repair, rendering the refinery idle at a time when Iraq is short of cash due to plummeting oil prices.

The refinery was liberated once before in November, but security forces failed to secure the area and deployed to other fronts, leaving the refinery a soft target.

Shiite regional power Iran has military advisers in Iraq and Syria and provides financial and military support to the governments of both countries in their fight against the Sunni extremists.

(With AFP and Associated Press)

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Last Update: Sunday, 24 May 2015 KSA 17:12 - GMT 14:12
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Iran general: Army needs more funds to counter ISIS
General Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan warned Iran’s parliament when he said ISIS is ‘close’ to the Islamic republic’s border
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