Iran Promises Troops To Defend Shiite Shrines In Iraq

Iran is promising to defend Shiite holy sites in Iraq as ISIS and Sunni insurgents have taken control of much of the area to the north of Baghdad, including most of the Baiji Refinery.

According to a Reuters report, the elite Iraqi troops guarding the Baiji Refinery have stood their ground better than most of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army, which largely threw down its arms and ran in the face of the ISIS terrorists and the Sunni Iraqis who have allied themselves with them. Despite this, it appears unlikely that Iraqi troops will be able to hold the Baiji Refinery without outside help.

A related report in the Inquisitr delves into the aims ISIS has for the region and asks why the United States is staying largely uninvolved. Another report relays Secretary of State John Kerry’s indication that the U.S. is already in the process of working with Iran on the issue of quelling the violence in Iraq. President Barack Obama has repeatedly made clear that the use of U.S. ground forces is not an option he is willing to consider, despite the fact that Republicans are calling for action.

As the fighting escalates, Iran – which has already sent troops into the region – has vowed to defend the Shiite holy sites in Iraq. The protection of the holy sites and the pilgrims who visit them was one of the major causes of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.

According to a Reuters report, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had this to say about Iran’s intention to use troops in Iraq:

“Regarding the holy Shi’a shrines in Karbala, Najaf, Kadhimiya and Samarra, we announce to the killers and terrorists that the great Iranian nation will not hesitate to protect holy shrines.”

The problem with Iran stepping in to aid the Iraqis in defending Baghdad or – especially – Shiite holy sites is that it is likely to further escalate tensions between the rival factions within Islam. An NBC Newsreport quotes Washington Institute for Near East Policy Arab politics director David Schenker saying:

“The closer (Iraqi president) Maliki gets to Iran and the more help he gets from Iran to help put down this rebellion, the more sectarian this becomes. We’re seeing a regional proxy war, with Saudia Arabia backing regional Sunnis and Iran backing its Shiite allies.”

This has the potential to become incredibly problematic for the United States, which counts both largely Shiite Iraq and Sunni Saudi Arabia as allies in the Middle East.

What do you think? Is Barack Obama right to refuse to put boots on the ground in Iraq? Should the United States leave defending the Shiite holy sites to Iran, which has vowed to defend Shiite holy sites in Iraq, despite the fact that it could trigger a wider conflict?

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