Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Iran's deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, has accused the United States of supplying food and weapons to the Islamic State (IS) group in Iraq and Syria, and of seeking to control, not destroy the extremists.
Abdollahian said that U.S. warplanes have dropped ammunition and weapons in areas that are under the control of IS militants, Iran's Tasnim News Agency reported on March 2.
The Iranian deputy foreign minister made his comments at an international conference in Tehran on Iranian foreign policy.
"America has formed a coalition of 60 countries to fight Daesh [the Arabic and Persian shorthand for IS] in Iraq and Syria, but what we are seeing and what regional intelligence services are saying indicate that America has formed a coalition to fight against [IS], but the actions of this country is purely to manage [IS]," Abdollahian was quoted as saying.
According to Abdollahian, the United States has been dropping "packages of food aid and propaganda" into areas controlled by IS forces.
The Iranian deputy foreign minister was likely referring to an incident in October 2014 in which weapons and ammunition dropped by U.S.-led forces and intended for Kurdish militias ended up in the hands of IS militants. IS fighters claimed last month to have seized American-made weapons, including M-16s and heavy machine guns, from Iraq's military north of Baghdad.
Abdollahian said that the United States had claimed "computational errors" were behind the incident of weapons caches falling into IS hands, but said that these are "usually within the 50-100 km range" whereas the U.S. is "aiming for the center of Iraq, a distance of 800-900 km" from the intended targets in northern Iraq.
Abdollahian's theory that the United States is secretly supporting IS in Iraq and Syria by supplying it with food and weapons is a theory that has gained ground on a number of conspiracy-theorist websites, including Infowars, which repeated claims made by Iran's semiofficial Fars News Agency, close to the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
The Iranian deputy foreign minister's accusations also come amid reports that Iran's influence on Iraq's military affairs, particularly in the fight against IS militants, is increasing, with Iran taking a leading role in an Iraqi offensive to reclaim the city of Tikrit, 80 kilometers north of Baghdad.
Iran has supplied drones and ground troops to assist in the offensive, which began on March 2, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The Iranian fighters, who are from the IRGC, are mainly operating artillery and rocket batteries, according to a U.S. military official.
Iranian news agencies including Fars News reported on March 2 that the powerful commander of Iran's Quds Force, the IRGC's wing operating outside Iran -- has arrived in Tikrit where he will "supervise and advise" Iraqi troops.
Suleimani, and by extension Iran and its Quds Force, has played a visible and key role in Iran's involvement in the fight against IS in Iraq. Suleimani was reportedly involved in offensives against the miliants, including in battles to retake Iraqi towns in Diyala province from IS.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk