Op-Ed: Iraq sanctions Russian airstrikes on IS convoys from Syria

Posted Oct 25, 2015 by Ken Hanly
Hakem al-Zamli, chief of Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee, told a news agency that his government had authorized Russia to target Daesh(Islamic State) convoys coming from Syria.
An image grab allegedly showing Islamic State group jihadists in Iraq's Anbar province
An image grab allegedly showing Islamic State group jihadists in Iraq's Anbar province
-, Al-Furqan Media/AFP/File
Al-Zamli claimed the attacks would weaken Daesh by cutting off supplies. Although the U.S. and allies have criticized the Russian strikes in Syria and refused to provide targets or intelligence for Russia, there has been security coordination between Iraq, Russia, Iran and Russia. Daesh gained control of large areas of Syria and Iraq including the northern city of Mosul in June of last year.
The U.S. has been reluctant to see countries it sees as enemies be part of the Iraq and Syria battle against Daesh. Given that the Iraq government is now dominated by Shia who have close links to Iran, the U.S. policy is probably counter-productive. On the ground, Shia militia from Iran are a significant part of the Iraqi forces battling Daesh in Iraq. Iraq is naturally willing to receive aid and help from whatever source and not just sources approved by the US and allies.
Returning from a recent visit to Iraq U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair General Joe Dunford claimed Iraq does not want Russian help in fighting Daesh. Dunford said Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder Abadi told him as much during a meeting with him. In public, however, Abadi has to the contrary insisted that he would welcome "Russian airstrikes against ISIS and indeed would welcome help from any country willing in the battle."
Rather than stating a fact, Dunford's statement that Iraq does not want Russia's help against Daesh is probably a warning to Iraq that the U.S. may punish it for going against U.S. wishes, should it authorize the airstrikes. Apparently U.S. officials are warning Iraq that they must choose between gaining help from the U.S. or from Russia. It is quite unlikely that the US and allies would simply stop all their actions against IS in Iraq. This would give Iran and Russia tremendous influence in the area a prospect that the U.S. surely does not want. The U.S. will need to work something out with Russia. If the two can work on destroying chemical weapons in Syria, they can surely tolerate each other in a battle against a foe both want destroyed.
The U.S. shows a certain arrogance in the region that results in stupid policies. The U.S. apparently is angry that Russia and Iraq have agreed to share information. To Iraqis this anger can only appear as if the U.S. treats them as some sort of protectorate whose policy is determined by the U.S. rather than a sovereign nation. While the U.S. may make some moves to punish Iraq, it is unlikely to abandon the fight against Daesh in Iraq. Perhaps it will concentrate more on the Kurdish area in the north and work through them, a policy that may anger Turkey and the Iraqi central government. The U.S. stopped sharing intelligence with Iraq when the Baghdad office for intelligence sharing decided to include Russia, Iran, and Syria. It would make more sense just to limit the intelligence shared. The decision as it is can only hurt the progress of the fight against Daesh. Instead of pragmatic policy decisions the U.S. pronouncements reflect a return of a cold war ideology that can very well hurt U.S. interests and influence in Iraq.