In an interview with France 24, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi accused President Obama of a lack of “will” in the fight against the Islamic State, and complained that Obama had failed to deliver the “massive air power” he had promised. Abadi further said that while he has not yet discussed Russian intervention in Iraq, he “would welcome” Russian airstrikes against ISIS in his country. From the interview:
France 24: Are you discussing with Russia the possibility of Russia striking in Iraq?
Abadi: Not yet, not yet.
France 24: But it’s a possibility?
Abadi: It is a possibility. If we get the offer we consider it. In actual fact, I would welcome it if it can work …
France 24: Some of your commanders have complained that the Americans are not providing enough air support. What is missing in your assessment?
Abadi: I think many things are missing. Our expectation was that we were going to get major help in this operation…. We were expecting the international coalition, the Americans would bring massive air power to protect our forces and to support them in their fight. We haven’t received that massive airpower.
France 24: You’re disappointed obviously?
Abadi: Of course. But now I have to live with it.
France 24: But you’ve talked with Barack Obama. What are you telling him?
Abadi: I’m telling him. He promised me to get more support. I mean, this has to do with will. Do Western nations want to be involved in this war to the full scale? … We want to achieve quick victory over [the Islamic State] but in order to do that we need major support. At the moment we are getting support, but it’s not major, it’s limited…. What we are getting at the moment is a small proportion of the air cover that was available [in 2003], in Desert Storm….
France 24: So there is a lack of political will to help is what you’re saying?
Abadi: I think there is. Now public support is the West is high. But these leaders, they are afraid that the more they are involved, the more casualties there will be, even among civilians in Iraq and Syria, and the more there will be a public outcry against them in these capitals. That’s probably what is holding them [back]. But by all honesty I think leaders should take decisions – I know public opinion has to be considered – but you know the facts, if you allow [the Islamic State] to spread, nothing will stop it.
You can watch the full interview here.
As I point out in the Washington Post this week, it was our anemic military campaign against ISIS (75% of US air sorties do not drop any bombs) that created the vacuum that Russia is now filling in Syria. Now Iraqi officials are complaining about the weakness of the American effort in their country, and suggesting that they too may turn to Russia for help.
Will Russia answer the call? Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Iraq had not yet requested strikes. “We are polite people. We don’t come if not invited,” he said. (That would be news to the government of Ukraine).
Russia now has a major airbase in Syria. It could soon add to its growing Middle East presence by occupying former American air bases in Iraq as well — growing the influence of the emerging Russo-Iranian alliance in the region.