Iraq to share intelligence on IS with Syria, Russia and Iran
Iraq's military said Sunday it will begin sharing "security and intelligence" information with Syria, Russia and Iran to help combat the Islamic State (IS) group, a move that could further complicate United States (US) efforts to battle the extremists without working with Damascus and its allies.
A statement issued by the Joint Operations Command said the countries will "help and cooperate in collecting information about the terrorist Daesh group", using the Arabic acronym for the IS group.
Iraq has long had close ties with neighbouring Iran and has coordinated with Tehran in fighting IS - which controls about a third of Iraq and Syria in a self-declared caliphate. Iran has sent military advisers to Iraq and worked closely with Shiite militias battling the IS group.
A US-led coalition has meanwhile been conducting air strikes against IS in Iraq and Syria as well as training and advising Iraqi forces, but US officials insist they are not coordinating their efforts with Iran.
The US also refuses to cooperate with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who Washington has insisted should step down. Russia and Iran have provided crucial support to Assad since Syria's uprising began in 2011.
The Baghdad-based spokesman for the US-led campaign against the IS group, Col Steve Warren, said the US remains committed to working with Iraq to defeat the extremists.
"We recognise that Iraq has an interest in sharing information on ISIL with other governments in the region who are also fighting ISIL," Warren said, using another acronym for the militant group. "We do not support the presence of Syrian government officials who are part of a regime that has brutalised its own citizens."
US Secretary of State John Kerry, who met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sunday, said in response to the Iraqi statement that "all of the efforts need to be coordinated. This is not yet coordinated."
"I think we have concerns about how we are going to go forward. That is precisely what we are meeting to talk about now. Our presidents will be meeting tomorrow," he told reporters, referring to talks between US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Lavrov, when asked about the purpose of the cooperation with Iraq, said it was to "coordinate the efforts against ISIL".
Moscow has been ramping up its involvement in Syria in defence of Assad by ferrying weapons, troops and supplies to an airport near the Syrian coastal city of Latakia in what the US sees as preparations for setting up an air base there.