Iraq: Russia and Iran enter void left by Obama

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on July 8 that his country proposes to organize an international forum on terrorist threats in Iraq in the hope of enlisting support.  "We hope this idea would win support, since, as far as we understand, all are worried over the developments in Iraq," he said to Russian journalists, adding that Iraq was "really facing a threat of disintegration."

Gatilov said, "There is understanding in the international community that it is high time to do something. I think this support will only grow to create a platform for the organization of such forum," while adding that discussions about the forum are "are at the initial stage."

"The task is to clarify the positions of key players, and later on to decide on the format - a venue, parameters, but we think that the United Nations must play its role, since this issue is being discussed at the United Nations Security Council and we cannot go without this global organization here," he said.

Gatilov noted that Iraq "is rapidly degrading," while Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists are consolidating positions in Iraq and Syria. "The fact that terrorist groups are acting on territories of two Arab states demonstrates that pooled efforts are strongly needed," he added, according to Itar-Tass.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is reportedly threatening to abrogate a defense agreement with the United States in favor of closer ties to Iran and Russia. Media reports suggest that because of American urgings for him to step down, Maliki will cancel the Strategic Framework Agreement with the US. Signed in 2008, the agreement outlines the terms for political, economic and security co-operation between Washington and Baghdad. It was intended as the basis for a lasting relationship the US and Iraq, granting a US monopoly on defense contracts worth billions of dollars. Frustrated by President Barack Obama’s lack of support, Maliki is now considering abrogating the agreement altogether.

The US has sent up to 600 military advisers to Iraq, but Secretary of State John Kerry has conditioned further aid on whether Iraq can heal millenium-old rivalries between rival visions of Islam in the country. Maliki, for his part, has refused to make any concessions for the Sunni and Kurdish minorities. Observers have expressed fears that Obama’s stature in the Mideast will be harmed should Maliki abrogate the defense agreement. Russia and Iran already in the wings, waiting to fill in the void. Maliki, for example, has been frustrated by the US failure to provide military hardware, including F-16 jets, he believes is needed for his fight against ISIL.

Iraq instead bought Russian Sukhoi ground-attack jets last month, some of which have already arrived, and flew at least two missions last week in support of Iraqi ground forces against ISIL forces in Tikrit. Five more jets are expected to arrive in Baghdad within a few days. Iran has supplied drones, advisers, pilots, trainers and communications monitoring equipment. Russia has recently signed a $3.6 billion deal with  Iraq to supply helicopters and a new air-defense system. There are reports that Iraq has hired Syrian pilots to fly the Russian aircraft.

Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under politics, politics, barack obama, iraq, iran, russia, kurdistan, islam, isil, isis, Middle East


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