Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during their meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow on May 21.
One day after launching a campaign of airstrikes in Syria, Russia announced that it was considering going into Iraq.
A foreign ministry representative said Thursday that Russia would consider any request from Iraq to conduct anti-ISIS airstrikes in the country, and Iraqi President Haider al-Abadi told Western news outlets that Russian airstrikes were “a possibility” and that Iraq would “welcome it.”
“Our message to the Russians — I met with Putin — please join this fight against Daesh,” Abadi told PBS NewsHour, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Daesh, as well as the Islamic State, is another name for the ISIS militant group.
“Daesh is a dangerous terrorist organization, not only against Iraq, against Syria, against the whole region, against the whole world. It is time that we all join the same forces to fight Daesh.”
This escalation signifies a “fundamental shifting of the balance of power in the Middle East,” Ali Khedery, the longest continuously serving American official in Iraq, told Business Insider in an interview.
Khedery called the Russian strikes a “major world event” and compared the country’s actions to the formation of the Axis alliance leading up to World War II.
“Now, an alliance really is consolidating and formalizing,” Khedery said. “There is now a Shia axis locked in combat across Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. I expect an expansion of the conflict in the months and years ahead. This has the potential to escalate into a regional war, a holy war, and global cold war.”
The alliance Khedery speaks of is between Iran, Syria, Iraq, and the Tehran-backed Shia militant group Hezbollah. The group has already set up a coordination cell in Baghdad.
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