A senior Revolutionary Guard commander says a top Iranian general and 70 Iranian advisers were on the ground in Iraq this summer, helping Kurdish fighters defend the regional capital of Irbil against Islamic State militants.

Gen. Amir Ali Hajizadeh, who runs the Guard's aerospace division, says Gen. Ghasem Soleimani "stood up to" the Islamic State group and was instrumental in preventing the fall of Irbil.

Hajizadeh's remarks late Tuesday to Iranian state TV were Tehran's first confirmation of Iranian military presence and hands-on involvement in the struggle against the Islamic militant group.

Iran earlier only confirmed providing military advice to the Iraqis but denied sending forces or weapons.

The Islamic State militants came dangerously close to Irbil in August but Kurdish peshmerga fighters and U.S. airstrikes stopped their advance.