One of Iraq's most senior politicians has warned that the country could ask Iran to carry out air strikes against the jihadist group, Isis - if the United States continues to refuse to do so.
Speaking exclusively to The Huffington Post UK, Dr Haider Al-Abadi, a member of the Iraqi parliament and a spokesman for Prime Minister Noori Al-Maliki's Dawah Party, said the Iraqi authorities feel so threatened by Isis "that we will take any assistance, even from Iran".
It is believed to be the first time such a senior Iraqi politician has publicly raised the spectre of full-scale Iranian military involvement inside Iraq - in the absence of US military action.
"We are waiting for the Americans to give us support," he said. "If US air strikes [happen], we don't need Iranian air strikes. If they don't, then we may need Iranian strikes." Turkish air support could also be considered, he added.
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said the launching of air strikes would be "a complete and total act of irresponsibility", given the seemingly sectarian split inside of Iraq and the failure of Iraqi security forces to tackle Isis fighters on the ground.
Al-Abadi, who is chair of the parliament's finance committee and was considered a prime ministerial candidate in both 2006 and 2010, said Iraq could "survive with minimal support" and Iraqi forces could "protect Baghdad" from the jihadist militants but air strikes would be required to "kick Isis out of the region".
Secretary of State John Kerry isn't keen on the US launching air strikes against Isis in Iraq
On Monday, Isis declared it had set up a caliphate inside the areas it currently controls, between Aleppo in northern Syria and the Diyala province in eastern Iraq. Isis leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was declared caliph and “leader for Muslims everywhere”.
The rise of Isis, according to Al-Abadi, is a "catastrophe" for the wider Middle East - and for the west. In recent days, it has emerged that young British Muslims have travelled to Syria and Iraq in order to fight for Isis - and there are worries that they could return to the UK and pose a threat to domestic security.
Al-Abadi warned that the threat from Isis to the UK is "huge". The ideology of Isis, he argued, is not merely sectarian but based on fighting "everyone who is not like them".
Despite claiming the group itself is not "rooted in Iraq" and relies heavily on foreign fighters, the senior MP conceded that "Isis is now going into the villages [in Nineveh province] and recruiting young people. We are witnessing a new generation of Iraqis in Isis."
He denied, however, that the Maliki government was guilty of marginalising and persecuting Iraq's Sunni minority, as has been suggested by, among others, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton. "In any country, do you have all people supporting the government?"
Nevertheless, the senior Iraqi politician admitted that there had been "excesses" by Iraqi security forces, which have helped alienate Sunni Iraqis in the north of the country from the central government in Baghdad. "We have to listen to the grievances," he said, "some of which are right and some of which are false."
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The Dawa Party lawmaker said replacing Prime Minister Maliki and forming a so-called 'national salvation government' would not, on its own, provide a political solution to the current security crisis. "Isis has got its own agenda regarding what it's doing in Iraq," he told HuffPost UK. "Whatever we do, even if we bring in a Sunni prime minister, they'll be against him.. They fought against [former Iraqi prime minister Ayad] Allawi because he was secular, even though he wasn't Shia."
He pointed out that "in Nineveh, [Isis miliants] are not only killing Shias but Sunnis who don't give allegiance to them".
"We have to be careful not to become involved in a sectarian war," he said, adding: "Shias are not against Sunnis and Sunnis are not against Shias."