Top Diplomat: Iraq Welcomes Russian Airstrikes Against Islamic State

Islamic State group militants / AP

Unsatisfied by the Obama administration's campaign against the Islamic State in the region, the Iraqi government welcomes Russian airstrikes against the terrorist group inside Iraq, according to a top diplomat.

The Air Force Times reported:

The Iraqis feel that the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State has become too focused on Syria and has not made enough progress on the ground in Iraq, a senior Iraqi diplomat, who asked to speak on condition of anonymity, told Air Force Times on Monday. The official accused the coalition fores of moving too slowly, thereby missing opportunities to roll back the Islamic State in Iraqi cities. Since more than 2,000 Russians are among the Islamic State’s ranks and Russia has experience fighting Islamic militants in Chechnya, it makes sense to include Russia in anti-Islamic State efforts, he said.

While Iraq is open to the possibility of Russian airstrikes, the diplomat said that the Iraqi government would not welcome Russian troops on the ground fighting the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL or ISIS). Iraq has not formally asked Russia to conduct airstrikes in the country.

Ignoring warnings from the Obama administration, Russia has been increasing its military activity in Syria in recent weeks in order to allegedly combat IS and bolster the Bashar al-Assad regime. Moscow has sent troops and military aid to Syria and last week conducted its first airstrikes there.

Russian warplanes dropped bombs near the city of Homs in western Syria Wednesday, an area that is not controlled by Islamic State militants. Defense Secretary Ash Carter has expressed skepticism that the Russian strikes were targeting IS.

Iraq agreed last month to share intelligence with Russia and Syria in the effort against IS, but the top diplomat insisted Monday that the agreement will not put U.S. or other coalition forces at risk. He also called on the U.S. to provide Iraq with more M1A1 Abrams tanks so that Iraqi forces can reclaim the Anbar province from IS.

U.S. intelligence agencies concluded in July that the Obama administration bomb campaign against IS in the Middle East has yielded no perceivable degradation in the terrorist group’s forces.