Iraq strikes ISIS in Syria in coordination with US, Assad

The raid coincided with an 'anti-terrorism' meeting of Iraqi, Iranian, Russian and Syrian military and security officials in Baghdad.
Sunday 22/04/2018
An Iraqi F-16 fighter jet at an undisclosed location in Iraq, on April 19. (Iraqi Air Force)
Coordinated moves. An Iraqi F-16 fighter jet at an undisclosed location in Iraq, on April 19. (Iraqi Air Force)

LONDON - Iraq has struck Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Syria with intelligence support from the US-led coalition and after coordinating with the Syrian regime. The raid coincided with an “anti-terrorism” meeting of Iraqi, Iranian, Russian and Syrian military and security officials in Baghdad.

The Iraqi Air Force carried out the April 19 “deadly raid” against ISIS in Syria “because of the danger [ISIS militants] pose to Iraqi territory,” a statement from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s office said.

“These raids demonstrate the growing capacity of our armed forces to hunt down and liquidate terrorists,” the statement added.

The strikes were carried out after coordination with Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government, an Iraqi military spokesman said.

“Carrying out air strikes on [ISIS] 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.

The US-led coalition fighting ISIS said the attack targeted an area of eastern Syria’s Deir ez-Zor province near Hajin, approximately 50km from the Iraqi border.

The strike, planned with intelligence support from the coalition, “demonstrates Iraq’s commitment to destroy [ISIS] remnants who continue to threaten their citizens,” said US Marines Brigadier-General Robert Sofge, deputy commander of coalition operations.

Abadi said earlier in April that Iraq would “take all necessary measures if they threaten the security of Iraq,” referring to ISIS militants, who three years ago overran one-third of Iraq.

Abadi declared victory over ISIS in December but the militants still pose a threat from pockets along the Syrian border and continue to carry out ambushes, assassinations and bombings across Iraq.

Iranian, Syrian and Russian officials in Baghdad

Iraq has good relations with Iran and Russia, Assad’s main backers in the 7-year-old Syrian civil war, while also enjoying strong support from the US-led coalition.

On the same day the strikes were carried out, Iranian Defence Minister Brigadier-General Amir Hatami visited a joint intelligence centre in Baghdad operated by Iran, Iraq, Syria and Russia.

“Cooperation in intelligence between the four countries for common aims and anti-terrorism missions has been successful in restoring stability and security and it should form the basis for future cooperation,” Hatami said in a statement.

The “coalition” had played an “important role in the defeat” of ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, he said.

Iran’s official IRNA news agency said Hatami met with Iraq’s interior minister and other officials and praised their victory over ISIS.

General Saad al-Alak, head of Iraq’s military intelligence, who met with Hatami, called the four-country alliance “a distinguished example for international relations, especially in the field of military and security cooperation.”

Human rights abuses 

The strikes came as Baghdad faced renewed criticism from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which accused Iraqi security officers of “denying immediate relatives of suspected ISIS members security clearance to reclaim homes being occupied or to seek compensation.”

“Security forces have also destroyed or confiscated some property. Such acts, based only on family relationships to ISIS suspects rather than individual security determinations, are a form of collective punishment,” read a statement by HRW.

Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said the Iraqi measures were discriminatory and counterproductive.

“These families deserve the same protections that Iraqi courts provide to all citizens,” Fakih said in a statement. “Courts should be the guarantors against discrimination that will only further sectarian divisions in the country and delay needed reconciliation.”

The allegations against the Iraqi judiciary have been recurring.

“Critics say the perfunctory trials in special counterterrorism courts are sweeping up bystanders and relatives as well as fighters and executing most of them in a process more concerned with retribution than justice,” the New York Times reported.

Iraqi officials denied a miscarriage of justice taking place when trying ISIS suspects.

“If there is evidence then suspects are prosecuted and if there is no evidence then they are released,” Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, an Iraqi judge and Justice Ministry spokesman, told the New York Times.