Iraq defends intelligence sharing with Russia, Syria, Iran

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. (File photo: AP)

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has defended his country’s intelligence-sharing agreement with Russia, Syria and Iran, saying Baghdad needs to share intelligence with these countries and others in order to defeat the Islamic State group.

Iraq’s decision to strengthen ties with Syrian President Bashar Assad and his two main allies potentially complicates U.S. efforts to combat the ISIS group without strengthening regional foes who are also battling the extremists.

It comes as Moscow has been ramping up its involvement in Syria in defense of Assad — ferrying weapons, troops and supplies to an airport near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia in what the U.S. sees as preparations for setting up an air base there.

In a televised speech before his departure to attend the U.N. General Assembly, al-Abadi said Iraq welcomed Russia’s “recent interest” in battling ISIS.

“During the past three months, there has been an interest by Russia to fight Daesh, as many terrorists who are fighting with it are Russian who would return to Russia to carry out terrorist acts,” al-Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for the ISIS. “At the same time, we welcomed that interest by establishing an intelligence cell in which Syria and Iraq participate.”

He said that his country will continue to work closely with the U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing the ISIS in Syria and Iraq, saying Iraq needs “all the world’s intelligence efforts in order to fight, to besiege and to terminate Daesh.”

Iraq has long had close ties with neighboring Iran and has coordinated with Tehran in fighting ISIS — which controls about a third of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared caliphate. Iran has sent military advisers to Iraq and worked closely with Shiite militias battling the IS group.

A U.S.-led coalition has meanwhile been conducting airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria as well as training and advising Iraqi forces, but U.S. officials insist they are not coordinating their efforts with Iran.

The U.S. also refuses to cooperate with Syria’s Assad, who Washington has insisted should step down. Russia and Iran have provided crucial support to Assad since Syria’s uprising began in 2011.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:46 - GMT 06:46
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