In more continuing fallout over the Jan.3 assassination by drone of the IRGC's Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iraq and Russia are preparing for deepening military coordination, reports the AP.
Iraq’s Defense Ministry announced Thursday that increased “cooperation and coordination” is being discussed with Moscow amid worsened relations with Washington, which even last month included President Trump issuing brazen threats of "very big" sanctions on Baghdad if American troops are kicked out of the country.
This week Iraqi army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Othman Al-Ghanimi and Russian Ambassador Maksim Maksimov met to discuss future military cooperation. Crucially, Gen. Ghanimi highlighted Russia's successful anti-ISIS operations over the past years, especially in Syria where the Russian military has supported Assad since being invited there in 2015.
On Russia's role in Iraq, Ghanimi said Moscow had provided “our armed forces with advanced and effective equipment and weapons that had a major role in resolving many battles,” according to the ministry statement.
It's been long rumored that since late summer Baghdad and Moscow have been in talks to deliver either Russia's advanced S-400 or S-300 anti-air missile defense systems - a prospect which US officials have condemned.
Like other areas of the Middle East, as US adventurism heightens pressure for a US withdrawal, Russia appears to be seizing the opportunity to move in. This much was affirmed in AP's reporting, via at least one anonymous senior official:
A senior Iraqi military intelligence official told The Associated Press that Russia, among other countries, has come forward to offer military support in the wake of fraught US.-Iraq relations following Soleimani’s killing.
“Iraq still needs aerial reconnaissance planes. There are countries that have given signals to Iraq to support us or equip us with reconnaissance planes such as Russia and Iran,” said the official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.
Many military analysts have of late noted that the "blowback" from the incredibly risky operation which killed Soleimani will be a hastening of American forces' exit from the region.
It could also actually serve to increase Baghdad's dependency on Iran - something which appears to be already in the works. And now we have confirmation that Moscow will seek to benefit as well from the worsened US-Iraq relations, certainly now at the lowest point since the 2003 invasion and US attempt to build a new government.