RUS­SIAN MIL­I­TARY FLY­ING OVER IRAQ QUES­TIONED

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics -

Iraq’s gov­ern­ment has told the United States that it will not per­mit Rus­sian mil­i­tary forces to con­duct air and mis­sile strikes in­side the coun­try. But Baghdad is al­low­ing Rus­sian mil­i­tary air­craft to over­fly its ter­ri­tory to re­sup­ply its forces, de­spite a re­quest from the United States to deny the flights.

Sen. Tom Cot­ton, Arkansas Repub­li­can, dis­closed dur­ing a Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day that the U.S. gov­ern­ment asked the gov­ern­ments of Bul­garia and Iraq to close their airspace to Rus­sian air­craft sev­eral weeks be­fore Moscow’s Syria mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

Mr. Cot­ton sug­gested that Bul­garia agreed to deny the over­flights but that Baghdad re­jected the U.S. re­quest. Both De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter and Marine Corps. Gen. Joseph Dun­ford didn’t dis­pute that the diplo­matic re­quests to deny Rus­sian mil­i­tary sup­ply flights were made, but he de­clined to de­tail the specifics.

“I would say it’s prob­lem­atic for Rus­sia to be re­sup­ply­ing its forces in Syria by fly­ing through Iraq,” Mr. Cot­ton said dur­ing a Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing Tues­day. “We should re­new our re­quest that they ex­clude Rus­sian air­craft from their airspace. And our mil­i­tary should be ready to as­sist them in ex­clud­ing Rus­sian air­craft from their airspace.”

Gen. Dun­ford con­firmed that Rus­sian sup­ply flights have passed through Iraq but said it was “not at the un­der­stand­ing of the Iraqi gov­ern­ment.”

Iraq’s small F-16 force has lim­ited ca­pa­bil­i­ties to pre­vent in­tru­sions of its airspace, the four-star gen­eral said.

Dur­ing a visit to Iraq re­cently, Gen. Dun­ford said, he re­ceived as­sur­ances from Prime Min­is­ter Haider al-Abadi and other Iraqi lead­ers that Baghdad would not align with Rus­sia in bat­tling Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

“And I ex­plained to them how dif­fi­cult it would be for us to con­tinue to pro­vide sup­port if the Rus­sians were in­vited in to con­duct airstrikes,” he said, “and I was as­sured at ev­ery level that that wouldn’t be the case.”

Rus­sia con­ducted 59 airstrikes from Oct. 23 through Oct. 25 in north­ern Syria, ac­cord­ing to the Rus­sian De­fense Min­istry.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. Tom Cot­ton, Arkansas Repub­li­can, dis­closed dur­ing an Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee hear­ing that the U.S. asked Bul­garia and Iraq to close their airspace to Rus­sian air­craft sev­eral weeks be­fore Moscow’s Syria mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion.

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