Over the weekend of September 26th to 27th, the Iraqi government announced a new intelligence gathering cell created with cooperation from Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime. The announcement came as a shock to the U.S. which has also been working with the Iraqi government to combat ISIS. The Iraqi prime minister Haider Al-Abadi justified the cooperation with Russia and Assad by stating that Iraq needs all the help it can get when it comes to combating Islamic extremists such as ISIS.
Iraq has a history of cooperating with governments that the U.S. oppses in the current crisis. Iraq is already cooperating with Iran in combating the Islamic State, which has strained relations with the US. American officials have previously stated that they are not worried about Iraq’s work with Russia and Iran. American officials confirmed that intelligence sharing with Iraq will likely continue. Some western analyists went so far as to assert that the intelligence cell has little function other than as a propaganda coup for Putin, to lend support for his U.N. speech last week calling on the West to cooperate with Russia in combating ISIS. Alternatively, the announcement of intelligence cooperation with Iraq is also theorized as part of Putin’s plan to rehabilitate his ally Assad.
Iraq’s announcement of cooperation with Russia was followed on Monday by Putin’s call at the U.N. for a new anti-ISIS coalition to include all the major players. Putin cited the WWII alliance as an example, calling on all governments to coordinate against the common threat and set aside their differences. Russia shares the West’s concern regarding the Islamic State, as many radicalized Russian Muslims have also travelled to the warzones to join the organization. However, differences on the issue of what to do with Assad as well as Russia’s annexation of Ukraine meant western governments are largely, and understandably reluctant to cooperate with Russia.
Increased Russian involvement in the Middle East conflict also increases the probability of confrontation between the major military powers as their air-forces fly uncoordinated and the various groups they were sponsoring fight on the ground. Recent Russian airstrikes have targeted rebels that are sponsored by the C.I.A. in addition to the Al-Nursa Front and the Islamic State.
Further Russian military support for the Assad regime to enhance its fighting abilities will likely cause more tensions with the Western-backed coalition over Syria.
Caryl, Christian. 2015. “Realists, Beware of Russians Making Deals.” Foreign Policy, 29 Sept.
MICHAEL R. GORDON. 2015. “Russia Surprises US with Accord with Battling ISIS.” The New York Times, 27 Sept.
Nissembaum, Dion, Adam Entous, Nathan Hodge, and Sam Dagher. 2015. “Russian Airstrike in Syria Targeted CIA-Backed Rebels, U.S. Officials Say.” Wall Street Journal, 01/10/2015.
Pugliese, David. 2015. “Iraqis Say they Need Intelligence Sharing with Iran, Russia and Syria to Defeat Islamic State.” Ottawa Citizen, 29 Sept.
Ryan, Missy. 2015. “Russian, Syrian Partnership Poses a New Challenge for U.S. in Iraq.” The Washington Post, 28 Sept.
 MICHAEL R. GORDON, “Russia Surprises US with Accord with Battling ISIS,” The New York Times, sec. Middle East, 27 Sept, 2015.
 David Pugliese, “Iraqis Say they Need Intelligence Sharing with Iran, Russia and Syria to Defeat Islamic State,” Ottawa Citizen, sec. World, 29 Sept, 2015.
 Missy Ryan, “Russian, Syrian Partnership Poses a New Challenge for U.S. in Iraq,” The Washington Post, sec. National Security, 28 Sept., 2015.
 Christian Caryl, “Realists, Beware of Russians Making Deals,” Foreign Policy, 29 Sept, 2015, .
 Pugliese, Iraqis Say they Need Intelligence Sharing with Iran, Russia and Syria to Defeat Islamic State, Vol. World, 2015).
 Dion Nissembaum et al., “Russian Airstrike in Syria Targeted CIA-Backed Rebels, U.S. Officials Say,” Wall Street Journal, sec. Middle East, 01/10/2015, 2015.
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