The head of Iran’s National Security Supreme Council has defended the presence of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in Iraq, saying their presence is pivotal to Iran’s domestic security.

Ali Shamkhani spoke at the funeral of Hamid Taghavi, the IRGC commander who was killed last week in Samarra, Iraq, in an attack later claimed by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forces. Shamkhani said the sacrifices of IRGC forces in Iraq provide security for Iranians all across their own country.

Shamkhani said if Iran did not have a military presence in Iraq and Syria to fight against ISIS, “the enemy would not hesitate to threaten Iran’s security”.

On Sunday, the IRGC issued a statement announcing that Brigadier General Hamid Taghavi had been killed during an advisory mission in Samarra, Iraq.

Shamkhani said Taghavi is one of the “founders of the Iraqi mujahedin in the Hur region” who have been able to make headway against ISIS with the Iraqi forces.

While Iran does not deny its presence in Iraq, it maintains that the IRGC is acting only in an advisory and training capacity.