Multinational mix backs US air strikes on Islamic State

Damascus warned not to interfere with air raids

Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting  against Islamic State militants  in Khazir, on the border between Kurdistan and Iraq yesterday. Photograph: Azad Lashkari/Reuters

Kurdish Peshmerga troops fighting against Islamic State militants in Khazir, on the border between Kurdistan and Iraq yesterday. Photograph: Azad Lashkari/Reuters

 

US defence secretary Chuck Hagel announced yesterday that the US air campaign against radical Islamic State (IS) in Iraq would expand to Syria and will target IS safe havens, command and control facilities, logistics networks and infrastructure, but would not involve “shock and awe”.

Damascus has been warned not to interfere with US air raids.

While 25 states have pledged to stand with the US against IS and tackle IS “by any means necessary, including appropriate military assistance”, coalition partners are prepared to deploy only limited assets and no troops.

The boots on the ground in Iraq are a peculiar mix. They include Iraqi army soldiers and Shia militias bolstered by Iranian front-line trainers serving with Kurdish and Arab units, and by US advisers who have been deployed relatively close to the Iranians.

Forces fighting IS in Syria belong to the Syrian army, the Lebanese Hizbullah, and the Iraqi Shia Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq Brigade, the Righteous Brigade of radical anti-US cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which has redeployed to Iraq.

Drones, advisers and missiles

Washington has deployed some 1,600 advisers and special forces to boost the capacities of Iraqi forces.

British Tornado aircraft have been flying reconnaissance missions over Iraq from Cyprus and Britain has promised to arm Kurdish “peshmerga” fighting IS forces.

Two French Rafale airforce planes have also begun reconnaissance flights over Iraq. France has contributed 18,000 rounds of 50-calibre ammunition but said it would not operate flights over Syria.

Germany has banned domestic efforts to promote IS and has offered anti-rocket missiles to Kurdish forces and to train 30 Kurds in their use.

Australia is ready to contribute 400 airmen and 200 special forces personnel, eight F/A-18 combat aircraft, an E-7A Wedgetail early-warning aircraft, and a KC-30A tanker and transport aircraft.

The Netherlands has vowed to curb the flow of jihadis into Iraq and Syria, counter propaganda promoting the IS cause, and enact legislation revoking citizenship of those who aid and abet terrorists. Canada will send 50 special operations troops as advisers as well as arms and ammunition.

Turkey has refused the US the use of Nato’s Incirlik airbase for attacks on IS. Ankara claims to have curbed the flow of recruits, arms and money to IS, but needs to do more and to seal its borders with Syria and Iraq to fighters who cross into Turkey for medical treatment, rest, family visits and shopping.

Turkey also has to ban recruitment of its own citizens and halt oil smuggling from plundered Syrian and Iraqi fields and sale on its black market.

Syrian insurgents

The United Arab Emirates has agreed to host French and Australian contingents. There is uncertainty about Qatar’s role as its capital Doha has been a supporter of IS and al-Qaeda’s affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. Qatar houses US Central Command facilities including al-Udeid airbase.

Airstrikes

John Kerry

Tehran ridiculed the coalition as it has rejected strengthening the Syrian government as well as that of Iraq, and it has excluded Iran, the sole regional power with forces in action on the ground.

Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim Jaafari said he regretted the exclusion of Iran and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov criticised the coalition’s refusal to recruit Iran and Syria which, he said, “are our natural allies in the fight against IS”.

Iraq seemed to agree with this line as it dispatched national security adviser Faleh al-Fayyad to Damascus to meet with President Bashar al-Assad to co-ordinate policy on combating IS.

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