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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.

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“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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