US Irate Over Iraqi Moves to Create Moscow-Baghdad Alliance to Fight ISIL

Citing diplomatic sources in New York, Israeli journalist Shlomo Shamir suggests that if Baghdad decided to ask Russia for military assistance against ISIL and Moscow agreed, Russian-American relations would sink to levels unseen since the Cold War.

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In his piece, appearing this week in Israeli newspaper Maariv, Shamir cited "international diplomatic sources" who suggested that Russia "is planning to expand its military involvement in the region and to begin bombing targets on Iraqi territory."

Shamir noted that in a situation where US-Russian diplomatic relations are already rather frosty, and becoming even cooler, Russia's involvement in Syria "has been met with great satisfaction and enthusiasm among Iraq's Shiite politicians. They are even considering appealing for Russian intervention in the fight against ISIL in Iraq."

"Russian President Vladimir Putin has already become the most popular and beloved foreign leader in Iraq, due to the Russian campaign of airstrikes against ISIL positions in Syria," an unnamed diplomatic source told the journalist.

Shamir noted that his diplomatic sources believe that the Kremlin "is paying close attention [to the situation], and is currently weighing the possibility of responding favorably to the request for military assistance in liberating Iraqi territory captured by ISIL."

Furthermore, according to the journalist, Iraq's Shiite politicians and Shiite militia "are putting pressure on Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, demanding that he make an official request for Russian assistance in the battle against ISIL."

"This," in the journalist's view, has been "caused by many influential Shiite politicians' disappointment over the modest results of the US's year-long bombing campaign against ISIL in Syria and Iraq. They fear that the US is not looking to intervene more actively in the fight against the terrorists, possibly in the aim of strengthening the position of Iraq's Sunni minority."

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Again citing his diplomatic sources, Shamir suggests that "Iraq's Shiite leaders are [already] acting in coordination with Iran," which, presumably, would "wholeheartedly support the idea of expanding Russia's military intervention in Syria to Iraq as well."

Meanwhile, an Iraqi militia member Shamir spoke to noted that "he would only welcome a Russian bombardment of ISIL positions in Iraq and their lines of communication and supply, through which they receive supplies from Syria."

Commenting on the effect all this will have on Russian-US relations, Shamir suggested that "an open Russian military intervention in Iraq would threaten to even further aggravate an already difficult situation and lead to a complete breakdown in relations."

A Russian intervention in Iraq, Shamir pointed out, would serve a real "insult" to Washington. "The US fought in Iraq twice in the past two decades, the cost of the second war estimated at a trillion and a half dollars. About 5,200 American soldiers were killed and 35,000 more wounded. The results have been quite disappointing. American influence in Iraq is now close to zero."

While he suggested that "the results of Russia's military intervention in Syria are too early to assess," the journalist appeared to imply that a successful military campaign coordinating Russian air strikes with an Iraqi ground operation to eliminate ISIL would irritate the US to no end, given that after over a decade of investment in lives and treasure, Washington has nothing to show for its misadventure, as Baghdad orients itself toward Iran and now, perhaps toward Russia as well.

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