Iran army exercise simulates response to ISIS attack
TEHRAN - Iran's army conducted exercises Tuesday close to its border with Afghanistan designed to simulate how it would respond if "terrorist groups" such as the Islamic State organisation mounted an attack.
The operation in the northeastern province of Khorasan came a day after a military commander said ISIS would be "neutralised" if it breached a 40 kilometre (25 mile) zone approaching Iran's borders.
Tanks, helicopters and planes took part in Tuesday's manoeuvres, the ISNA news agency reported.
The exercise followed ISIS attacks that killed 129 people in Paris last week.
"One aim of the exercise was to practice methods and means to confront the possible actions of terrorist groups at the borders," said General Amir Reza Azarban, an army commander in the province.
Iran, the major Shiite power in the Middle East, is heavily involved in conflicts in Syria and Iraq against ISIS, primarily Sunni Muslims who denounce Shiites as apostates.
On Monday, General Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, the army's head of ground forces, announced the 40 kilometre limit on the borders with Iraq and Afghanistan, which if breached would trigger action.
"We have strongly warned that if any action is taken (by ISIS), it will face a decisive response from Iranian armed forces and we will do the same in Afghanistan," Pourdastan said.
"Before the enemy reaches borders, its actions will be neutralised."
His comments came after Iraq's Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said intelligence sources showed Iran was among countries ISIS planned to attack.
Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, which is independent of the army, has advisory missions in Iraq and Syria at the invitation of the Baghdad and Damascus governments.
Pourdastan's statement came just weeks before Iranian pilgrims prepare to travel to Iraq for the annual Arbaeen commemorations, which have been targeted by militants in past years.
Almost one million Iranians have signed up online to attend this year's 70-kilometre (40-mile) religious walk between Najaf and Karbala on December 2, marking the death of Imam Hussein.