As nuclear negotiations between Iran and U.S. allies go down to the wire, the Islamic Republic has accused America of killing two of its advisers in the ground war in Iraq with an unmanned aerial vehicle—though U.S. officials say the allegation has no merit.
The claim came as negotiators on Monday attempted to reach a deal on Iran's contested nuclear program, which hard-liners in the Islamic Republic have opposed as giving away too much to the West.
The Guard said on its sepahnews.ir website the strike happened March 23, just after the U.S.-led coalition began airstrikes to support Iraqi forces trying to retake the Islamic State-held city of Tikrit. It identified the dead as Ali Yazdani and Hadi Jafari, saying they were buried Sunday. It called them advisers, without elaborating on whether Iran contacted Iraqi or U.S. forces after the strike.
Tikrit—the birthplace of Saddam Hussein and an ISIS stronghold in Iraq's so-called Sunni Triangle—has become a focus of major operations, with the U.S. using airstrikes to target ISIS fighters there since mid-March.
Several Iraqi media outlets have also reported that U.S. airstrikes killed several members of the Iraqi security forces—which, along with independently operating Iraqi Shiite militias, are coordinating their attacks on ISIS with advice from "Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard," according to the AP.
The U.S. embassy in Baghdad has denied both sets of allegations:
"The international coalition is aimed at Daesh only," using an alternate Arabic acronym for the Islamic State group.
"All airstrikes are carried out at the request of the Iraqi government and in full coordination with the (Iraqi) Ministry of Defense," the embassy said, without directly addressing the Iranian claim.
[Photo credit: AP Images]