Iranian Revolutionary Guard forces helped Iraqi troops regain control over most of Tikrit, according to Iranian security sources.
Confronted by the threat of Sunni Muslim forces overtaking Shiite-dominated Iraq, Iran responded to aid its Arab ally and sent Revolutionary Guard fighters to Iraq, according to Iranian security sources.
At least three battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of the Guards, were deployed to support the fight against ISIL, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an offshoot of al Qaeda that is swiftly conquering territory across Iraq, they said.
One Guards unit that was already in Iraq fought alongside the Iraqi army, offering guerrilla warfare advice and tactics that helped reclaim most of the city of Tikrit on Thursday.
Two Guards’ units, deployed from Iran’s western border provinces on Wednesday, were tasked with protecting Baghdad and the holy Shiite cities of Karbala and Najaf, these security sources said.
General Qasem Sulaimani, the commander of the Quds Forces and one of the region’s most powerful military figures, traveled to Baghdad this week to help manage the swelling crisis, said a member of the Revolutionary Guards, or IRGC.
Qassimm al-Araji, an Iraqi Shiite lawmaker who heads the Badr Brigade bloc in parliament, posted a picture with Mr. Sulaimani holding hands in a room in Baghdad on his social-networking site with the caption, “Haj Qasem is here,” reported Iranian news sites affiliated with the IRGC on Wednesday. “Haj Qasem” is Mr. Sulaimani’s nom de guerre.
The advances of an al Qaeda-affiliated group gaining support, supplies and territory presents Iran with its biggest security and strategic threat since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.