The Washington Post reports that Iraq plans to set up a joint-intelligence-sharing hub with Syria, Iran, and Russia to fight ISIS. The center is expected to be operational within a matter of weeks, according to a spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry.
The Post’s Loveday Morris explains the meaning of this move:
The deal is the latest indication of expanding Russian influence in the region as Moscow embarks on a major buildup of troops and military assets along the Syrian coast. A larger role in Iraq could come at the expense of U.S. clout, with Washington struggling to compete with Iran for influence on the battlefield.
Actually, the opening for Russia to play a larger role exists because the Obama administration isn’t seriously trying to compete on the battlefield. As Morris says:
Efforts to push back militants in Iraq have virtually stalled, with U.S.-backed troops around Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, apparently unable to make any significant progress in retaking the city from the Islamic State. Despite a $1.3 billion train-and-equip program for Iraqi forces, Iraqi officials complain that assistance has been slow compared with support from Iran and Russia.
A member of parliament from Iraq’s ruling State of Law bloc stated the matter more succinctly:
Iraq has had enough of the unserious support and procedures of [Obama’s] international coalition.
The intelligence center may well prove to be just the beginning of Russia’s role in Iraq. A Russian news agency reported that a committee for “planning operations and controlling armed forces units” fighting ISIS may also be created.
Obama’s “unserious” approach to the fight against ISIS hasn’t gone unnoticed among our allies, either. The Post reports that French jet fighters conducted a five-hour bombing operation against an ISIS training camp in Syria this weekend. Although France is a member of the U.S. led coalition, it is deciding on its own which targets to attack in Syria.
France’s military role is, as ever, related to its quest to be a major diplomatic player — in this instance, in formulation on a political solution for Syria, if things ever get to that point. Francois Hollande has proclaimed that, to this end, “France is talking with everyone and excluding no one.”
Like Russia, France can always be counted on (albeit for less malignant reasons) to try to fill, in its own way, a vacuum left by the United States. And President Obama can be counted on eventually to leave a vacuum.
Does he care who fills them? I see no evidence that he does.