A heavily armed Iranian military force has landed at Sulaymaniyah International Airport this week, deploying to Kirkuk, an Iraqi Kurdish security source has told Arabic language daily Asharq Al-Awsat.
A senior Kurdish security official has told the daily that a 200-strong force of the Iranian regime's Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) has been granted access to Kirkuk province by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
The report did not identify the source that made the remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media,
According to the security source, the PUK facilitated the Iranian force’s movement through Kirkuk.
The source said: “[Iranian] elite forces trained in guerilla warfare and armed with sophisticated weapons have come [to Iraq] to fight ISIS, protect Shi’a shrines and lift the siege imposed by ISIS on the Shi’ites and Turkmen communities.”
A number of local and international media outlets have published reports that forces affiliated with IRGC are present in Iraq.
A number of IRGC members killed in Iraq have been buried in Iran. Iranian pilot Colonel Shoja’at Alamdari Mourjani was killed last month following reports from the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies that Iranian Su-25 fighter jets had arrived in Iraq to provide air support for Iraq's fight against Sunni militants.