Russia 'would consider air strikes in Iraq' if it receives request from Baghdad

Russian politician says Moscow would 'consider the viability' of strikes, but that no request has yet been received

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Russia is ready to consider expanding its air strikes in Iraq if it receives a formal request from Baghdad to do so, a senior Russian politician has said. 

Valetina Matvienko, head of the Russian parliament’s upper chamber, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that “In the case of an appeal to the Russian Federation from Iraq, the leadership will consider the political and military viability of an aerial operation,” adding that such a request has not yet been received. 

The comments followed a meeting between Ms Matvienko and Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh in Amman, and echoed remarks made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week, where he discussed the possibility of military strikes in Iraq at a United Nations news conference. “We haven’t been invited, we haven’t been asked, and we are polite people, as you know. We won’t come if we’re not invited,” Lavrov said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has expressed support for Moscow’s military assistance in targeting Isis in Iraq, telling a press conference last week that he may allow Russia to perform air strikes on Isis inside Iraq should Moscow offer. 

“It is a possibility,” Mr Abadi said. “If we get the offer, we will consider it.”

Russian forces have executed a number of military air strikes in Syria since last week, following an order by Russian President Vladimir Putin to conduct an aerial campaign against terrorists in the country.

However, despite Russia’s claims that its air strikes are targeting terrorist groups in Syria, data has revealed that the majority Russian attacks are targeting Syria’s northwest, where rebels fighting against forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad, not Isis, are in control.

The US and other nations in opposition to Mr Assad issued a statement urging Russia to focus on targeting its attacks on Isis rather than against opposition groups.