(photo credit: REUTERS)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani claimed on Tuesday that the Islamic Republic's military is the biggest force combating terrorism in the Middle East.
The Iranian president stated that Tehran was prepared to assist others in the region as it has aided Syria and Iraq, in reference to the battle against the Sunni Islamic State terror group.
Iran has provided military support to Syria and to Shi'ite militias in Iraq, but has not sent military units to Damascus.
In Syria's years-long conflict, Iran has backed President Bashar Assad and has called for him stay in power at least until Islamic State militants are defeated.
In a speech on Tuesday at a defense ceremony marking the onset of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, Rouhani said, “we tell the world today that the biggest anti-terrorism force in the region is the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
“Just as we have helped the governments of Syria and Iraq against terrorism, upon requests from their governments, if, heavens forbid, terrorism emerged in other countries, the governments of those countries will pin their hopes to the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Iran's semi-official news agency Mehr quoted Rouhani as saying.
While Iran is considered to be one of the world's leading state sponsors of terror for groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, Rouhani claimed that the Islamic Republic "has never had the intention to invade another country."
Islamic State, which emerged last year in the anarchic Sunni heartlands straddling Syria and Iraq, routinely executes prisoners, enslaves captives and destroys historic sites.
Iranian officials frequently cite such actions as a justification for their support of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have also carried out mass killings since the beginning of an initially peaceful popular uprising in 2011.Reuters contributed to this report.