Iraqi forces carried out airstrikes on Islamic State fighters inside Syria Thursday, after coordinating with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government, according to an Iraqi military spokesman.
The Iraqi air force deployed F-16 fighter jets into Syrian airspace to hit multiple ISIS targets along the Iraq-Syria border, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool said, according to Reuters.
“Carrying out air strikes on Daesh gangs in Syrian territories is because of the dangers posed by said gangs to Iraqi territories and is proof of the improved capabilities of our armed forces,” the Iraqi military said in a statement, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
The strikes “will accelerate the elimination” of ISIS in the region, the military added.
Close coordination with Assad reflects Baghdad’s willingness to work with whatever regional governments that have a mutual interest in the destruction of ISIS. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will “take all necessary measures if they threaten the security of Iraq,” he said earlier this month, referring to ISIS, which at one point occupied nearly a third of the country.
Aside from Syria, Iraq also has a cooperative relationship with Iran and Russia, Assad’s main backers in the Syrian war. That has put it in awkward position with the U.S., which sees both Moscow and Tehran as adversaries in Syria and the greater Middle East. Baghdad was critical of U.S. strikes against suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria, saying they were a distraction from the fight against jihadi groups in the region.
Top Iraqi defense officials met with their Iranian counterparts Wednesday in Baghdad to discuss security cooperation and post-ISIS reconstruction. The two nations have “donated their blood” in battle against ISIS and will work “shoulder to shoulder” to rebuild Iraq, said Iraqi Army Chief of Staff Othman al-Ghanimi.
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