Ruling Alliance, Militias Urge Iraq PM to Seek Russian Strikes

Ruling Alliance, Militias Urge  Iraq PM to Seek Russian StrikesRuling Alliance, Militias Urge  Iraq PM to Seek Russian Strikes

Iraq’s ruling alliance and Shia militias have urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to request Russian airstrikes on Islamic State militants, who control large parts of the country, members of the coalition and militias said.

Growing pressure on Abadi to seek Russian support puts him in the delicate position of trying to appease his ruling coalition, as well as militias seen as a bulwark against Islamic State, while keeping strategic ally Washington on his side, Reuters reported. America’s top general, Joseph Dunford, said on a trip to Baghdad on Tuesday that the United States won assurances from Iraq that it would not seek such strikes. Dunford, on his first visit to Iraq since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 1, said Abadi and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi both told him they were not seeking Russia’s help.

Former Cold War foes the United States and Russia are waging rival campaigns of airstrikes in Syria. Speculation has grown that Russia could expand its campaign to Iraq, where Abadi and the militias have expressed frustration with the pace and depth of the US campaign against Islamic State.

Two members of parliament said the prime minister was under “tremendous pressure” from the ruling National Alliance to request Russian intervention. MPs and alliance members said an official request for Russian air strikes was relayed to Abadi last week and that he has not officially responded.

“Abadi told the meeting parties that it wasn’t the right time to include the Russians in the fight because that would only complicate the situation with the Americans and could have undesired consequences even on long-term future relations with America,” said a senior Shi’ite politician close to Abadi.

Abadi’s spokesman said he has not discussed airstrikes with Russia. At the same time he was “not ruling out any side that could provide support to Iraq,” Saad al-Hadithi said.