America and Iran have expressed their readiness to support the Iraqi government in its war against rebel militias in Al-Anbar Governorate, which is the stronghold of the Sunni Muslims in Iraq.
Clashes between the Iraqi army and the militias started in the last week of December, when government forces violently dispersed a peaceful anti-government protest in the centre of the district. Before the clashes had even started, Iraqi soldiers kidnapped a Sunni parliamentarian and killed his brother in front of his family.
According to Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, Al-Anbar has become a stronghold for Al-Qaeda and its affiliates. In a televised speech, he warned of the collapse of the political process in Iraq and called upon the tribes not to provide cover "unintentionally" for Al-Qaeda in the province.
Al-Jazeera TV reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry said that his country has concerns about what is going on in Al-Anbar. He expressed its hope that the Iraqi army will succeed in cracking down on the militias and the tribal rebels.
Speaking during his latest visit to occupied Jerusalem, Kerry said that "the battle in Iraq" is connected with what is happening across the region. He added that events in Syria also affect the stability of the whole Middle East.
The secretary of state did not give any details of the kind of assistance that the US is ready to offer to Iraq, although he reiterated that "it is an Iraqi battle and we will help them". It is worth noting that the US sent so-called "Hell Fire" rockets to the Iraqi army as soon as the clashes erupted.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Head of the General Staff of the Logistic Corps in the Iranian armed forces, Brigadier Mohamed Hijazi, was reported to have stated Iran's readiness to support Iraq in "its war against Al-Qaeda". The brigadier said that Iran would only support Iraq with military equipment and advice. "Iran does not need forces," he claimed.
Asked whether Iraq had demanded military assistance from Iran and the US, Hijazi replied: "I have no knowledge regarding this issue, but when Iraq asks for help, surely, it would be welcomed by Iran." Would the US and Iran offer joint support? "Iran has no relations with the US," stressed the brigadier, "but when Iraq asks for help we will act directly."