China Offers Iraq Military Help Against IS

China Offers Iraq Military Help Against ISChina Offers Iraq Military Help Against IS

China has offered to help Iraq defeat IS militants with support for airstrikes, according to Ibrahim Jafari, Iraq’s foreign minister.

Wang Yi, Jafari’s Chinese counterpart, made the offer to help defeat the extremist group when the two men met in New York at September’s UN antiterrorism meeting, Jafari said.

Any Chinese assistance would be outside the US-led coalition. “[Wang] said, our policy does not allow us to get involved in the international coalition,” Jafari told the Financial Times in Tehran, where he was attending an anti-extremism conference last week.

“I welcomed this initiative. I told him?.?.?.?we are ready to deal with the coalition and also co-operate with countries outside this coalition.”

China’s official policy is of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. Although it does sell weapons to many other countries since abandoning the Maoist goal of “exporting revolution” decades ago China has avoided direct military involvement beyond its borders.

Growing economic and strategic interests have tested that policy. China’s navy began escorting ship convoys around the Horn of Africa after Somali piracy threatened oil and ore cargoes. Last year for the first time it contributed troops to a UN peacekeeping operation in Mali. A battalion of 700 Chinese troops is now joining UN Peacekeepers in South Sudan, with a mandate to guard Chinese-invested oilfields there.

The IS has taken swaths of Iraqi territory since June. The US has led the air strikes on the militant group’s positions in Iraq and parts of Syria over the past four months.

China’s defense ministry declined to comment on Jafari’s remarks. Hong Lei, a foreign ministry spokesman, would not comment on whether China was supplying air support or missiles. In their meeting, Wang had told Jafari China backed Iraq’s efforts to strengthen its anti-terror capacity, including intelligence exchange and personnel training, Hong said.

“China has been fighting terrorism and has been providing support and assistance to Iraq, including the Kurdish region, in our own way, and we will continue to do so within the best of our capabilities,” Hong said.

 Oil Factor

China is the largest foreign investor in Iraq’s oil sector and stands to lose the billions its state-owned groups have ploughed into the country if the fields are lost to the insurgents. Sinopec operates in Kurdistan, while China National Petroleum Corp has interests in the Rumaila field near Basra and in Maysan province near the Iranian border. CNPC has already in effect abandoned oilfields it operated in Syria.

Global Times, the Chinese newspaper, reported this week that IS crews were dismantling equipment at a small refinery west of Baiji in which a Chinese company has invested for use at refineries the group controls in Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city.

IS has suffered military setbacks as a result of the US-led air campaign and operations by the Iraqi military, Shia volunteers and Kurdish peshmerga forces. But Baghdad has made only minor progress in reclaiming territory in northern and western Iraq.

What Iraq needed now was more weapons, Jafari said: “Our problem is with the supply of arms and weaponry.” The Iraqi army was trained and equipped by US forces before 2011 but much of its US-supplied arsenal has fallen into the hands of IS.

There was no appetite in Baghdad for overseas troops on the ground, because of fears this would fuel anti-foreigner sentiment, Jafari added.

However, Jafari hoped Mosul would be retaken and IS defeated in 2015, although this would be “difficult”.