As Iraq asks the United States for military strikes against Sunni militants, we look at the role of Iran in the growing crisis. On Wednesday, the Iraqi government formally asked the United States to carry out air strikes on the militants, who have seized a large swath of the country over the past week. According to a report in The Independent of London, the Obama administration has told senior Iraqi officials that it would intervene militarily only if Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki left office. Maliki, who is Shiite, has been widely criticized for deepening Iraq's sectarian divide. Many analysts say the crisis in Iraq and Syria is developing into a proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia, with Maliki's government accusing the Saudis of backing the Sunni militants. On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia issued an apparent warning to Iran by saying outside powers should not intervene in the conflict. This came after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Iran "will not hesitate" to protect Shiite holy sites in Iraq threatened by Sunni militants. The Obama administration has said it remains opens to cooperation with Iran on stopping the militants' advance, an issue briefly discussed between the two sides on the sidelines of nuclear talks in Vienna. Will Washington and Tehran work together to shore up the Iraqi regime?
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