Dec 1, 2014
Iranian Phantom jet strikes the Islamic State in Iraq
At least one F-4 is seen conducting a bombing run against ground targets in the footage shot by Al Jazeera , which erroneously identified the aircraft as an Iraqi fighter. Iran and Turkey are the only regional operators of the F-4, and the location of the incident not far from the Iranian border, and Turkey's unwillingness to get involved in the conflict militarily, indicate this to be an Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force (IRIAF) aircraft.
While the IRIAF is known to have contributed Sukhoi Su-25 'Frogfoot' ground attack aircraft to the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq (ostensibly donated to the Iraqi Air Force, but believed to be crewed by Iranian pilots), this footage is the first visual evidence of direct IRIAF involvement in the conflict.
The Al Jazeera footage, which was shot on 30 November, shows the IRIAF F-4 supporting Iraqi forces retaking the town of Sa'adiya in what was purported to be the government's largest operation against the Islamic State since June. Its release shows reported growing evidence of Iranian involvement in the war in Iraq.
Video footage and photographs shown on social media sites have increasingly been showing Iranian military hardware in the hands of Shia militias fighting in Iraq.
While the US-led effort to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has been widely publicised by the Department of Defense (DoD) and its coalition allies, Iran's involvement has been altogether more opaque.
Iran was the first country to pledge and deliver military support to Iraq when the Islamic State began its offensive earlier in the year. At the time that the first IRIAF Su-25s arrived over Baghdad in late June, there was much speculation that Iran and the United States may come together in some form of joint operation against the Islamic State. However, the recent détente between the two countries is still in its very early stages, and neither side much relished the prospect of military co-operation to such a degree.
As such, there appear to be two parallel military campaigns being waged against the Islamic State, with the United States and its allies conducting their air campaign over Iraq and Syria, and Iran pursuing its own military agenda in Iraq at the same time. So far, this dual approach does appear to be working (at least in terms of de-conflicting the two military campaigns), but should they happen to cross paths over the coming weeks and months it would no doubt muddy still further an already complicated conflict.