The Obama administration continues its tacit admissions that it was wrong a year ago as Russia pledges to support the fight against ISIS in Iraq. This puts Russia and the U.S. on the same side of the fight when last year, the two countries were on opposing sides. In Syria, the U.S. is fighting the same enemy Bashar al-Assad is fighting when last year it wanted him removed. In Iraq, Russia has pledged to fight the same group the U.S. is launching air strikes against in Syria:
Russia said Friday that it would help to support Iraq in the fight against ISIS. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the pledge to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said via state-run news agency Itar-Tass. “During the meeting, Lavrov confirmed Russia’s support for Iraq’s independence, territory integrity and sovereignty,” the foreign ministry said. “Moscow is ready to continue supporting Iraq in its efforts in fighting the terrorist threat, and, first of all, the one from the Islamic State.”
The U.S. has been trying to build a broad coalition to tackle ISIS. Russia’s foreign ministry did not mention this Washington-led group Friday, saying only that Russia would protect Iraq’s interests. At least one foreign ministry official has previously said Russia would not join. While Lavrov made the pledge to Iraq, Moscow has been far more cautious over its ally Syria, which has also been partially overrun by ISIS. President Vladimir Putin told U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday that any airstrikes in the country should be carried out with Syria’s consent.
A Russian presence in Iraq also comes with an implicit message to the Obama administration. That message? If you think you’re going to use air strikes on ISIS in Syria to create a fog of war that you think you can exploit to then turn your weapons on Assad, you might want to start re-thinking.
Another country that can’t be too happy with an increased Russian presence in the region is Turkey, which has been exploiting ISIS for its own neo-Ottoman agenda.