Alwaght- On September 24, 2015, the Fox New quoted the US intelligence sources as saying that Russia, Iran and Syria military chiefs had established coordination units in Baghdad to plan deploying the Public Mobilization Forces to battle the ISIS terrorist group.
The US officials have noted that the Russian officers had been observed across Baghdad’s areas just days before the news report came out. Ibrahim al-Jafari, the Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, on September 26, in a speech in New York said that he had no news if his country had intelligence and security cooperation with Russia, however, a day after that, the Iraqi armed forces joint operations command in a statement announced formation of a joint operation command including Russia, Iran and Syria to gather intelligence about ISIS terrorist group.
On September 28, the Public Mobilization Forces joined in, and its official spokesman Karim al-Nouri called establishing a military coalition between Moscow, Tehran, Damascus and Baghdad as a certain right for Iraq, adding that the new coalition is an alternative for the US-led international coalition which has lost its potency and significance because of not being serious in fighting the ISIS.
The Sunni groups’ stance
While the Public Mobilization Forces’ press office reported on September 30 that the Russian forces had been sent to Iraq to cooperate with the Iraqi forces in data collection on ISIS, a new controversy rose in Iraq after some Sunni groups opposed the establishment of the Baghdad-based four-member coalition. Mohammed al-Karbouli, a member of National Forces, the major Sunni parliamentary block in Iraq, commenting on formation of the coalition, said that the four-member coalition’s support for the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad would lead Iraq to the miserable fate of other countries.
Mohammad Abdullah al-Mashadani, another member of the Sunni block in the parliament, has called the new coalition as an outcome of Russia and the US bilateral conflict, noting that Iraq would be exposed to damages as a result of this conflict.
Repeating the same claims, Mohammad Obeydi, another member of the National Forces parliamentary coalition, has said that Iran was engaged in negotiations with Shiite majority coalition of the Iraqi parliament, National Alliance, to facilitate the quick entrance of the Russians, as part of its escalation of tension with the US. He called the Russian presence in Iraq as the starting point of a new crisis between Washington and Moscow, and Baghdad would unavoidably be part of it.
Starting their propaganda war since October 1, the opposing media introduced Hassan Danaee Far, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, as the designer of the Baghdad-based four-nation coalition, adding that essentially the idea of forming the coalition came out of the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, and the intention behind it was to back Hadi al-Ameri, the head of the paramilitary group Badr Organization, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of the Public Mobilization Forces, as the Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi had no information of the center’s nature.
The same day, the Iraqi PM’s office issued a statement, noting that any agreement with Russia, Iran and Syria did not mean forming a joint military operations command center with these countries. The statement added that the Baghdad command center is exclusively intended for collecting and sharing data concerning ISIS movements in Syria and Iraq, and the Iraqi government definitely opposed setting up any military operations command center with the mentioned countries.
Reacting even more severely, the Sunni parliamentary coalition National Forces’ representative Zafer al-Aani declared that his coalition was very conservative about the Baghdad coalition, and called on al-Abadi to present detailed explanation about this information center to the parliament. He also requested that the heads of the security committees of the Iraqi provinces where the coalition was active had to join the parliamentary session. Moreover, likening the Baghdad ‘quartet’ to Warsaw Pact, which was in existence during the Cold War and led by the USSR, Kazem al-Shamari, the member of the Iraqi parliament’s defense and security committee, has reiterated the necessity that the PM al-Abadi had to explain to the parliament.
Al-Abadi and Barzani’s smart positions
Interviewed by France24 in New York, Haidar al-Abadi cleverly bypassed the tense and polarized atmosphere created by the opposition groups, saying that any Russian airstrikes in Iraq had not been discussed yet, but they were possible, and if they (the Iraqis) received any request, they would consider it, adding that he would welcome it.
On October 3, returning from New York, the PM al-Abadi in a press conference, just as it was noted previously by his press office, reiterated that the Iraqi contribution to the coalition was limited to intelligence activities, suggesting that it was in Iraq’s best interest to coalesce with Russia, Iran, and Syria to fight the ISIS terrorist group. At the same time, the Iraqi PM has criticized the US $500 million plan for training and equipping the so-called moderate Syria opposition groups in order to prepare them to fight ISIS.
A plan that ended in handing over the US-provided arms to the al-Nusra Front terrorist group by the US-trained fighters. Even more, he called on the international community to halt support for the terrorists, as he requested that the financial aids for them be blocked in Syria and Iraq, adding that in case any agreement is reached, the Iraqi government would not oppose Russia carrying out airstrikes in Iraq, noting that all the countries which wanted to collaborate with Iraq to fight terrorism were welcomed. The same day, Masoud Barzani, the President of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, taking an intelligent position and at the same rhetoric as the Iraqi PM, welcomed the Russian back-up for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their battle against ISIS, though saying that it would be suitable that Moscow, to draw better result, coordinates its performance and operations with the US-led coalition.
This is while Jabbar Yavar, the Secretary General of the Kurdistan region’s Peshmerga Ministry, saying that Kurdistan region was not informed of the formation of the Baghdad coalition, announced in October first that the Kurdistan region was not part of the for-membercoalition.
It seems that Barzani and al-Abadi, using a kind of political cleverness, have succeeded in avoiding getting caught between the US and on the Russia plus Resistance Axis coalition in the region’s tense rivalry and fight for balance, choosing to play on the present cards and take more privileges from Washington. The US-led coalition forces have been spending $9.9 million daily to battle ISIS; however, the terrorist group’s performance has been affected just slightly.
The part of the Western coalition’s expenses up to September 29, 2015, included conducting 7162 airstrikes on ISIS’ positions across Syria and Iraq, 4583 sorties in Iraq and 2579 others in the Syrian territories. Besides, the coalition forces have trained and equipped 10000 Peshmerga forces as well as 5000 fighters from the Sunni tribes in Iraq that has cost a total of $2.3 billion so far. But these trained forces, to the US desperation, fled the battlefield in Iraq’s Al Anbar province as soon as they were deployed to counter the ISIS terrorist fighters.
It is likely that the Baghdad-based anti-ISIS coalition would succeed in actualizing the Resistance goals in both Iraqi and Syrian fronts if it manages to resist the disruptions of the US on the one hand and the Iraqi internal opposing groups on the other hand. However, there are many disturbing factors that could derail the Russia-led coalition, challenging its potentiality in proceeding toward the set objectives.
The disruptive elements ahead of the Baghdad coalition briefly are:
1. The Russians’ possible compromise with the US on Syria in order to balance up the power between the two powers
2. Iraqi government’s shift in approach under the US and the Sunni opposition groups’ pressures.
3. Inconsistency in the Russia, Iraq and Syria’s priorities in the coalition.
The mentioned factors could plague the coalition’s performance. However, the Islamic Republic of Iran could play the role of a mediator to tip the balance between the goals and priorities of the other members participating in the coalition, as Tehran is supposed to make efforts to utilize the potentials of the anti-terror operation as much as possible to achieve the aims of the Resistance Axis in Syria and Iraq.