The Iraqi military has officially announced it is to begin sharing “security and intelligence” information with Russia, Syria and Iran to help combat the advances of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
A statement issued by the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the countries would “help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group (using the Arabic acronym for ISIL).”
“It’s a committee coordinating between the four countries, with representatives of each country, in the field of military intelligence and aimed at sharing and analysing information,” Saad al-Hadithi, a spokesman for
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office, told the AFP news agency.
Hadithi said the countries would focus on “monitoring the movements of terrorists… and degrading their capacity”.
He did not say if they had already begun their work.
Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan, reporting from Baghdad, said despite the official announcement, the cooperation between the countries “was nothing new”.
“As the Syrian crisis became a war Iraqi militias went to Damascus to protect holy shrines there and to defend the Assad regime, in a deal brokered by Iran,” our correspondent said.
“Then when ISIL took over large parts of Iraq the IRGC and the Iranian Quds Force got involved by backing Shia militias and have had some success in fighting ISIL.
“When America stalled on weapons imports to Iraq it was Russia that stepped in.
“The end game for Russia is securing its strategic interests in the region. Russia understands that the US will have a role to play in Iraq for years to come so by cooperating with Syria, Iran and Iraq it also has influence in those countries whatever the outcome may be,” he said.
Russian ISIL members
The official Iraqi military statement said that Moscow was increasingly concerned about “the presence of thousands of terrorists from Russia who are carrying out criminal acts with Daesh”.
Russia has sold fighter jets and weaponry to Iraq but has on the surface taken the back seat in the country as Iran and the US-led coalition – which also includes France and Britain – have taken the lead in Baghdad’s conflict with ISIL.
The move comes as Moscow is boosting its military presence in neighbouring Syria, deploying more troops and warplanes to an air base along with new arms deliveries to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Washington’s strategy in Iraq, built on an air campaign and the deployment of several thousand military trainers and advisers, has faced increased criticism for failing to deliver results.
– With reporting by Imran Khan