Baghdad and London, Asharq Al-Awsat—The United States has expressed its disapproval regarding Iraq’s cooperation with Russia on combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to an informed source.
The source told Asharq Al-Awsat that during a visit to Baghdad 11 days ago, Gen. John Allen, the head of the US-led coalition targeting ISIS, informed Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi that Washington is “disturbed” by Baghdad’s recent alliance with Moscow in the fight against the extremist group.
The Iraqi military announced on September 27 that it would begin coordinated efforts to share “security and intelligence” information with Russia, Syria, and Iran to help combat ISIS.
The source said: “John Allen . . . informed Haider Al-Abadi that Washington was disturbed by Iraq’s alliance [with Russia], and said, to the letter, that ‘President Barack Obama is enquiring regarding his role [in the fight against ISIS] . . . Shouldn’t Iraq be thanking the US?’”
The US-led coalition has been conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since June of 2014. US military experts have also been in Baghdad to train and advise Iraqi forces to aid in their fight against the extremist group, which currently controls vast swaths of territory in both Iraq and Syria.
The source added that Gen. Allen—who is due to leave his post as head of the coalition in November—asked Abadi “to not proceed” with cooperating with Russia, especially in light of Moscow’s commencing its airstrike campaign in Syria on September 30.
“Abadi promised him [Allen] that this would not happen and that Baghdad would coordinate with Washington and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition if it were to take any steps in this direction,” the source said.
Abadi has been facing pressure from inside Iraq’s largest Shi’ite-led parties to involve Russia in the country’s fight against ISIS, the source said, adding that the PM was “stuck” between appeasing these voices at home and his commitment to cooperating with Washington.
There has also been pressure from Iran-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq, known as the Popular Mobilization. The US has been wary of the involvement of such militias in the fight against ISIS, as they have been accused by a number of international organizations such as Human Rights Watch of carrying out sectarian attacks against Sunni civilians in areas they have liberated from ISIS control.
The US has instead been keen to arm local Sunni tribal groups to help in the fight against ISIS, a move that is controversial in Abadi’s ruling, Shi’ite-dominated Islamic Da’wa Party.
Meanwhile, Hadi Al-Ameri, the head of the influential group the Badr Organization—the armed wing of one of Iraq’s leading Shi’ite political parties the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI)—has told Abadi that areas under ISIS control, such as the city of Ramadi, which fell to ISIS in May, “cannot be liberated without the involvement of the Popular Mobilization.”