Iraq leans toward Russia in war on ISIS

Alwaght- Iraqis and Russians nowadays are witnessing an increasing cooperation in many fields, fighting terrorism in particular, and this collaboration is rapidly transforming into a strategic alliance.

Iraq announced that it had signed an agreement to exchange intelligence with Russia that is the latest sign of Moscow’s increasingly ambitious intervention into the fight against ISIS. Under the new agreement, which also includes Syria and Iran, the Iraqi military said that the four countries would share information about the ISIS terrorist group.

Since Moscow began bombing ISIS in Syria last week, Iraq’s politicians, who dominate government, have been largely united in their praise of Moscow’s intervention and in calls for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to invite Russia to join the battle. Mr. Abadi said he would welcome Russian strikes as long as they were coordinated with the US-led coalition’s air campaign against ISIS in Iraq.

Momentum appears to be quickly building for Moscow to increase its involvement in Iraq. Moeen al-Kadhimi, a spokesman for the Badr Corps political party that plays a front-line role in fighting ISIS, said “We welcome Russian airstrikes in Iraq to help hit ISIS headquarters, target ISIS State supply lines from Syria and target the oil smuggling lines,” addeding “We welcome Russia as they have advanced military technology and can help with intelligence.”

Apparently, Iraq may request Russian air strikes against ISIS on its soil soon and wants Moscow to have a bigger role than the United States in the war against the terrorist group, “In the upcoming few days or weeks, I think Iraq will be forced to ask Russia to launch airstrikes, and that depends on their success in Syria,” Hakim al-Zamili, a leading Shi’ite politician, told Reuters in an interview.

Besides that, powerful Shiite forces seek for a partnership with Russia to counter US influence.

“We are seeking to see Russia have a bigger role in Iraq … Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans,” Zamili said. Muen al-Kadhimi also addad that “The government has been relying heavily on an untrustworthy ally, which is the United States, and this fault should be fixed.”

However, it seems that Russia’s intervention came at the right time and right place and it will change all rules of the game not only in Syria but also in Iraq. Russia tries to deepen its influence in the West Asia through striking a security and intelligence-sharing agreement with Iran, Iraq and Syria with a command center in Baghdad, and its believed that this center will develop in the near future to be a joint operation command to lead the war against ISIS in Iraq.

Regarding the fact that the US-led coalition in Iraq did not achieve meaningful results on the ground, ISIS has showed no signs of weakness but he terrorist group has taken control over many parts of the Iraqi territories like Anbar and Fallujah during US-led coalitions’ campaign; Iraqi officials are looking for a new partner to bring Stability for their country.

In addition to increasing the role of Russia in the fight against ISIS, the Baghdad agreement also serves to put the US—which has been conducting joint military operations with Iraq against ISIS— on the back-foot.

And as first implication about the Baghdad agreement US secretary of state John Kerry said we welcomed the Russian co-operation with Iraq against ISIS, emphasizing that “The critical thing is that all of the efforts need to be Co-ordinated.”

While the exact nature of new agreement between Russia and Iraq remains unclear, its announcement will probably accelerate criticism in US and some parts of the region, demanding Obama administration to retain its influence over events in the West Asia, especially when Russia  seeks to play a more decisive role.

The signs of the US disapproval on the agreement is just getting more obvious, as US decreased its cooperation in the war on ISIS, announcing that its administration is against any Russian interference.

On the other side, the Russian military has dramatically ramped up its military presence in Syria in recent weeks, reinforcing its naval base in Tartus, building a forward airbase in Latakia and starting work on two more bases north of the Syrian port city.

It seems that Russian military action in Iraq would deepen US fears that it is losing more strategic ground in the region as Russia supports President Bashar al-Assad with airstrikes in Syria and Iran holds deep sway in Iraq.

By Alwaght