Iraq may request Russian air strikes against ISIS on its soil soon

Hakim al-Zamili, the head of parliament's defence and security committee in Iraq, said Russian air strikes may be requested against ISIS.
Hakim al-Zamili, the head of parliament's defence and security committee in Iraq, said Russian air strikes may be requested against ISIS.PHOTO: EPA

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq may request Russian air strikes against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants on its soil soon and wants Moscow to have a bigger role than the United States in the war against the group, the head of parliament's defence and security committee told Reuters on Wednesday (Oct 7).

"We might be forced to ask Russia to launch air strikes in Iraq soon. I think (in) the upcoming few days or weeks, Iraq will be forced to ask Russia to launch air strikes and that depends on their success in Syria," said Hakim al-Zamili.

Iraq’s government and powerful Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias question the United States’ resolve in fighting ISIS militants, who control a third of the country, saying US-led coalition air strikes are ineffective.

Russian air strikes against the government’s opponents in Syria have raised hopes in Baghdad that Russia could become an effective partner against the ultra-hardline group. “We are seeking to see Russia have a bigger role in Iraq... Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans,” Mr Zamili said.

Russia’s intervention in the Middle East, including a new security and intelligence-sharing agreement with Iran, Iraq and Syria, has raised concerns in Washington that its former Cold War enemy is gaining clout in the oil-producing region. “We believe that this centre will develop in the near future to be a joint operation command to lead the war against Daesh in Iraq,” said Mr Zamili, using a derogatory Arabic acronym for ISIS, also known as ISIL.