Iraqi military officials announced Sunday that they have reached an agreement to share intelligence about the ISIS terror group with Russia, Syria and Iran. The Iraqi military released a statement that the agreement was needed because a majority of those who joined the militant group have come from Russia. As Russia has engaged in a military buildup at an air base near Latakia in Syria, President Vladimir V. Putin has sought to assemble his own coalition against the Islamic State, one that includes the Syrian government and Iran.
With about 3,500 American advisers, trainers and other military personnel in his country, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi of Iraq has cast himself as a vital member of the United States-led coalition to combat the Islamic State, and has not joined the Russian-led coalition. Iraq has also quietly enabled the Russian military buildup in Syria and has cooperated with Iran, from which it receives military support. While Bulgaria closed its airspace to Russian transport planes headed to Syria at the request of the United States, Iraq has allowed the Russian flights to use its airspace.
The news comes as U.S. concerns grow about Russia’s military buildup in Syria and appears to confirm American suspicions of some kind of cooperation between Baghdad and the Putin government. Russia has sent aircraft, tanks and missiles into the war-wracked country, according to the Pentagon. Col. Steve Warren, spokesman for the U.S. coalition issued a statement.
We remain committed to working closely with Iraq to defeat ISIL,” ” As a sovereign nation, Iraq has relations with many nations and the agreements the Iraqis take that work to our common objective are up to them.” “We recognize that Iraq has an interest in sharing information on ISIL with other governments in the region who are also fighting ISIL. We do not support the presence of Syrian government officials who are part of a regime that has brutalized its own citizens.”
Kerry responded to questions about the accord, saying it was key that the United States and Russia coordinate.
I think the critical thing is that all of the efforts need to be coordinated,” Mr. Kerry said at the start of a meeting in New York with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister. “This is not yet coordinated. I think we have concerns about how we’re going to go forward, but that’s precisely what we’re meeting on to talk about now.”
Russia’s moves are raising difficult questions for the Obama administration, which remains deeply conflicted about American military involvement in the Syria conflict. Mr. Putin has been dismissive of the Pentagon program to train and equip the moderate Syria opposition — an effort that has yielded only a small handful of fighters. But some experts say that Iraq’s response to the Russians reflects the fractured nature of decision-making in Baghdad, its attempt to navigate a middle ground between the United States and Iran and that the Iraqi government has a divergent reading of how to deal with Syria.