The Iraqi military has announced that it had agreed to share intelligence about the Islamic State with Russia, the Syrian government and Iran, an agreement that caught the Obama administration off-guard.
The Iraqi military said in a statement that the new agreement was necessary because thousands of volunteers who have joined the Islamic State have come from Russia. Asked if he welcomed the accord, US secretary of state John Kerry said it was important that the United States and Russia coordinate.
“I think the critical thing is that all of the efforts need to be co-ordinated,” Mr Kerry said at the start of a meeting in New York with Sergey V Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister.
“This is not yet co-ordinated. I think we have concerns about how we’re going to go forward, but that’s precisely what we’re meeting on to talk about now.”
As Russia has engaged in a military build-up at an air base near Latakia in Syria, President Vladimir Putin has sought to assemble his own coalition against the Islamic State, one that includes the Syrian government and Iran. The effort, which Mr Putin is expected to underscore in his speech at the United Nations on Monday, appears designed to increase Russia's influence over efforts to resolve the Syrian conflict.
It not only puts Russia in a position to support President Bashar Assad militarily, but it could enable the Kremlin to influence the choice of a successor if Dr Assad were eventually to leave power.
Iraq has also quietly enabled the Russian military build-up in Syria and has cooperated with Iran, from which it receives military support. Virtually all the Russian transport planes that have flown weapons and equipment to the base near Latakia have crossed Iraqi and Iranian airspace.
“We did not violate any of our commitments toward the international community,” Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Iraq’s foreign minister, said when he was asked about the Russian flights. Iraq is buying aircraft and other weapons from Russia. But US concerns that Mr Putin might be trying to draw Iraq into the Russia-led coalition grew last week when a group of Russian military officers were observed in Baghdad.