Iraqi Shiite militias to turn to Russia to combat ISIS.
The ruling coalition in Iraq and the increasingly influential Shiite militias are trying to convince Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi, to ask for Russia to join the fight against ISIS in Iraq.
Currently, al Abadi, who is caught between that requirement and its strategic alliance with the United States, appears to have ruled out such a possibility, but if the current offensive to reclaim Ramadi and Baiji fails, the pressure will increase.
Al Abadi shares the frustration of his government and militia coalition for the results of the US air campaign against ISIS, which since last year controls nearly a third of Iraq despite repeated bombings. It is not the first time that the possibility of asking Russia for help has been put on the table.
However, last week the political allies of the prime minister filed a formal request in this regard, according to a Reuters report that cited “deputies and members of the National Alliance”.
“Al Abadi told them that it was not the right time to include the Russians in the fight because that would only complicate the situation with the Americans and could even have consequences for the relationship with the US long term “.
That position seems consistent with the message that the Iraqi Government has given to US General, Joseph Dunford, who on Tuesday visited Baghdad for the first time. Dunford said that both al-Abadi and his defense minister, Khaled al-Obeidi, had assured him they were not seeking help from Moscow.
However, Iraqis and their Iranian allies have grown impatient and the apparent success of the Russian intervention in neighboring Syria, where earlier this month the Russian airforce began destroying ISIS positions.
It also influences the widespread conviction among analysts in Baghdad that the US air campaign against Sunni extremists does not end Washington is trying to prevent further strengthening of Iranian parties in Iraq while at the same time providing terrorist groups with weapons to fight the Syrian Army and Iranian forces that in turn are fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“This is a political gesture, fueled by Iran, to reduce US dependency in Iraq” said Brian M. Downing, an American military analyst. He believes Iran and its allies in Iraq and Syria do not want a large American presence on its borders”. This will come in handy for Moscow, which will strengthen its role of superpower after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In fact, the president of the Russian upper house, Valentina Marvienko, was quick to declare that her country is ready to expand air strikes on Iraq if Baghdad requested it.
Currently, Iraq, Russia, Iran and Syria are part of an intelligence network that exchanges information to promote the fight against ISIS in the region.
Karim al-Nuri, a spokesman for the Badr Brigade, one of the most powerful militias, has assured Reuters that an Iranian member of that group has helped in the operation to recover Baiji, the home of the largest oil refinery in the country.
Since August, the US-led coalition has made at least 130 bombings around the city to allegedly support ground forces. However, it is clear that those bombings have achieved no important gains for the Iraqis.