Early Thursday morning the prime minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, confirmed that a number of their Iraqi Air Force F-16’s struck several locations just inside of Syria belonging to the Islamic State(ISIS).
Prime Minister al-Abadi issued this statement shortly after the Iraqi F-16 sortie returned to Iraq airspace saying, “On the orders of the Commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Dr. Haider Abadi, our heroic Air Force on Thursday carried out deadly airstrikes against the sites of the terrorist ISIL gangs in Syria on the Iraqi border.”
At least five separate strikes occurred in and around the southeastern town of Abu Kamal which resided within the Deir Ez-Zor region of Syria. This is the second time the Iraqi Air Force has conducted airstrikes into Syria. The last time Iraq conducted any military cross-border actions. Was in February 2017 where the Iraqi Air Force hit the same border town of Abu Kamal in which the Iraqi prime minister then boasted that the strike took apart the ISIS command structure in the region.
Senior Iraqi military commanding general, Brigadier General Yahya Rasool also confirmed that this cross-border combat sortie and airstrike and just like the last one in 2017 also confirmed that the strike was highly coordinated through the Assad regime in Damascus.
These strikes followed the agreement that both Iraq and Iran signed together with the Assad regime in 2016 to “step up military cooperation to fight against terrorism and extremism” within Syria.
Both Iran and Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding that would extend, “cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism and extremism, border security, and educational, logistical, technical and military support are among the provisions of this memorandum.”
This latest airstrike by Iraqi forces could also signal to the world that the United States and the Trump administration is making good on the Trump tweet that he wants U.S. troops out of Syria and to push for an Arab coalition force to step in and deal with the ISIS threat in Syria.
Something the U.S. president isn’t shy about expressing saying at a press conference earlier this week, “I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home.” Trump added, “We have asked our partners to take greater responsibility for securing their home region, including contributing larger amounts of money.”
According to Trump administration officials Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have been approached by Trumps newest national security adviser, John Bolton, to increase both financial and military support in creating an “Arab Force” to take on greater responsibility within Syria as well as other Middle Eastern ‘hot-spots.’
However, in an interview with Vox Middle Eastern security expert, Faysal Itani believes there is almost no chance that the Arab countries John Bolton approached will agree to such a plan saying, “No Arab state has the military or institutional capacity needed for this sort of task, Arab armies are bad at counterinsurgency, and even worse at war.”
Plus having an Arab force to deal with Syria and the Middle East may not align with U.S. interests. For instance James Jeffery former Middle Eastern security official for the George W. Bush administration believes that Saudi Arabia and the UAE really don’t care much about the Islamic State. Rather, their sites would be set directly on countering Iran and its influence within the region and thus potentially igniting an already volatile powderkeg that is the Middle East.
Egypt, who is already playing both the United States and Russia against one another on weapons deals has all but walked away from the ‘Arab force’ idea with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi’s former top intelligence minister, Mohamed Rashad, saying, “Egypt’s Armed Forces are not mercenaries. Egypt is adopting a strategy based on supporting the unity of Syria’s territories and its national army.”
Feature image courtesy of: WikiMedia Commons