The civil war in Iraq grew more international this week, as Iran suffered its first acknowledged military casualty. The Washington Post reports:
State media reported Saturday that an Iranian military pilot was killed in Iraq, the first confirmation that Iranian forces are involved in the Iraqi government’s battle to repel an offensive by al-Qaeda-inspired extremists.IRNA, Iran’s official news agency, did not provide details of how or when the pilot was killed but said he died defending holy places in the Iraqi city of Samarra, which is home to an important Shiite pilgrimage site.
Iran has been promoting the defense of the Shiite holy places in Iraq extensively in its domestic propaganda regarding its support for the Maliki government. Iranian operatives have long been rumored to be on the ground in Iraq, and last week credible allegations were made that Iran had sent fighter jets to that country. Acknowledging that there was a casualty, especially so shortly after the pilots were dispatched, could lead to further military escalation.While the Obama Administration clearly prefers to take its time in making foreign policy decisions, these events are acquiring a momentum of their own, which may not allow perfect contemplation.