This post originally ran on Juan Cole’s website.
The Iraqi government in Baghdad, threatened by Daesh (ISIS, ISIL) and frustrated by the Obama administration’s foot-dragging in taking it on, seems increasingly tempted by a Russia alliance.
Leaders of the Iraqi Shiite militias visited Moscow this week to seek Russian airstrikes against Daesh, according to the Egyptian newspaper Mada. Faleh al-Fayyadh, head of the Popular Mobilization Units or Shiite militias and Iraq’s national security adviser are said to have been among the delegation.
The US has been appalled by the notion that the Sunni cities of Iraq now under Daesh rule should be conquered, like Tikrit, mainly by hard line Shiite militias. The US has argued to PM Haydar al-Abadi that he should put off further big offensives until a much bigger Sunni contingent of troops can be recruited, who could take the lead in the fighting and so avoid inflaming sectarian tensions. But these Sunni troops have not actually materialized, and Daesh in Ramadi threatens Shiite cities such as Karbala, and some Iraqi Shiites are tired of waiting on the US.
Also this week the head of the Iraqi parliament’s Defense and Security Committee, Hakim al-Zimili said, “I think the upcoming few days or weeks Iraq will be forced to ask Russia to launch air strikes and that depends on their success in Syria. . . we are seeking to see Russia have a bigger role in Iraq . . . definitely a bigger role than the Americans [have now].” Al-Zimili had been a member of the Sadr Bloc, and was deputy head of the Health Ministry in 2006-2007, when it was accused of tracking Sunni insurgents who went to hospital and kidnapping them.
Saad Hadisi, a spokesman for the government in Baghdad of Haydar al-Abadi, said, “We need to develop cooperation with these countries [Russia, Iran, Syria] for the defense of Iraq and to protect our people.”
But Sunni parliamentarians are objecting to any Iraqi alliance with these three countries. Unfortunately for them, they can be voted down by the Shiite majority.
The socialist Patriotic Union of Kurdistan would be happy, spokesman Saadi Ahmad Pira, about a Russian air campaign against Daesh. The minions of the phoney caliphate are not far from PUK base Sulaymaniya. The Massoud Barzani-led Kurdistan Regional Government, on the other hand, worries about Great Power rivalries in Iraq and seems more cautious about a Russian intervention.