Russia looks to nudge US out of Iraq following air raids on militias

Russia looks to nudge US out of Iraq following air raids on militias
Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Kinshchak / CC: Iraqi Foreign Ministry
By bne IntelIiNews February 8, 2024

Russia is ready to support the strengthening of Iraq's security forces in the light of calls from Baghdad to expell foreign troops, Russian media reported on February 8.

Alexander Kinshchak, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry,  announced the proposal following growing calls in Iraq to kick the US out of the country for ongoing targeted air raids in Baghdad and elsewhere on Iraqi militia groups close to Iran. Those groups have targeted US troops in Iraq, Syria and Jordan, killing three US servicemen and women at the beginning of February. 

Russia said it supports the efforts of the Iraqi leadership to ensure stability, security and law and order in a friendly country. Kinschak added that the country is “ready to assist in strengthening the combat capability of Iraqi security forces”, primarily through “military-technical cooperation”.

He noted that Iraq and the countries of the region are capable of independently resolving their security issues [without the presence of the US and its allies]. The presence of American troops on their territory only aggravates the military-political situation and negatively affects the regional situation as a whole, the Russian report said.

Russia’s comments follow the latest US strike in Iraq on a senior member of the country’s semi-official security forces in the early hours of February 7.

Iraqi militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah on February 8 said the United States and other coalition forces in the region will be held responsible for the consequences of the killing of two leaders of the group in a drone attack east of Baghdad.

The two were later named as Abu Baqir al-Saadi, who is considered the missile engineer in the Hezbollah Brigades, and

درون يستهدف سيارة في #بغداد بدون معرفة من بداخلها الى الان ..

— Yasser Eljuboori (@YasserEljuboori) February 7, 2024 Al-Alaywi, the information system official in the brigades.

A security source told AFP, “A drone targeted a four-wheel drive vehicle with three missiles in the Al-Mashtal area”.

On February 3, the Russian foreign ministry accused Washington of escalating the conflict in the Middle East with its retaliatory strikes in Iraq and Syria and called for the United Nations Security Council to meet on the matter.

Maria Zakharova, spokesperson for the Russian foreign ministry, said that last week’s attacks indicate that Washington is not seeking a solution to the problems in the Middle East but is rather looking to sow further chaos and destruction.

Zakharova said Moscow insists on “the urgent consideration of this situation by the UN Security Council”, stressing that there is “no justification” for the American strikes.

Russia continues to have a military presence in neighbouring Syria in a deal struck with the Assad regime in Damascus during the civil war in that country. Despite troop numbers dropping significantly in recent years due to the war in Ukraine, Moscow has retained a firm grip on western parts of the country, including Latakia, where it has a base.