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Iraq may request Russian air strikes on Islamic State soon – official

BAGHDHAD: Iraq may request Russian air strikes against Islamic State on its soil soon and wants Moscow to have a bigger role than the United States in the war against the militant group, the head of parliament’s defence and security committee said on Wednesday.

“We might be forced to ask Russia to launch air strikes in Iraq soon. I think the upcoming few days or weeks Iraq will be forced to ask Russia to launch air strikes and that depends on their success in Syria,” Hakim al-Zamili told Reuters.

Iraq’s government and powerful Iranian-backed Shia militias question the United States’ resolve in fighting Islamic State militants, who control a third of the country, saying U.S.-led coalition air strikes are ineffective.

Russian air strikes against the government’s opponents in Syria have raised hopes in Baghdad that Russia could become an effective partner against the ultra-hardline group.

“We are seeking to see Russia have a bigger role in Iraq. … Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans,” Zamili said.

Russia’s intervention in the Middle East, including a new security and intelligence-sharing agreement with Iran, Iraq and Syria, has raised concerns in Washington that its former Cold War enemy is gaining clout in the oil-producing region.

“We believe that this centre will develop in the near future to be a joint operation command to lead the war against Daesh in Iraq,” said Zamili, using a derogatory Arabic acronym for Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

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