Gen. Dunford: Russian Airstrikes not Needed in Iraq

DUNFORD1KABUL: (Middle East Press) America’s top military officer said the United States has won assurances from Iraq that it would not seek Russian airstrikes against Daesh (ISIL) terrorists in the country.

Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, landed in Iraq Tuesday to get an update on the fight against ISIL, in his first trip to the warzone since taking the post on October 1.

Dunford said US officials spoke with Iraqi leaders and were assured that no Russian assistance has been requested.

Russia’s air campaign in Syria has raised fears that Moscow might seek to expand the military role into neighboring Iraq.

US and Russian military officials signed a memorandum of understanding Tuesday that they hope would prevent inadvertent clashes between their fighter jets in the skies over Syria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said early this month that he would welcome Russian airstrikes in his country to counter Daesh militants.

Gen. Dunford, however, said Abadi and Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi both told him they were not seeking Russia’s airstrikes.

“I said it would make it very difficult for us to be able to provide the kind of support that you need if the Russians were here conducting operations as well,” Dunford told reporters travelling with him.

He added that the Russians have not asked Iraqi leaders to conduct military operations in Iraq.

Dunford was scheduled to meet later Tuesday with the president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, Massoud Barzani, amid Iraqi officials’ fears that the US might move to directly provide arms to the Kurds.

The US has been training and equipping the Kurdish forces through the central government in Baghdad.

Dunford’s visit to Iraq comes after three days of meetings with senior military and government leaders in Israel and Jordan.


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