Iraq Rejects US Appeal for Blocking Russian Aircraft: Sources

Iraq Rejects US Appeal for Blocking Russian Aircraft: Sources

TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Iraqi officials have ignored a request by Washington to prevent Russian aircraft from heading to Syria through the Iraqi airspace, media reports said.

Russia is flying military assets and personnel into Syria via Iraqi airspace and ignoring warnings from the United States in the process.

US media has reported that Washington has failed to convince Iraq to shut its airspace to Russian transport planes heading to Syria.

American diplomats have reportedly raised the issue with the Iraqi government on September 5, hoping that the Iraqis would follow Bulgaria’s example. The Iraqis responded that they would look into the matter, but more than a week later, had yet to take action.

Officials familiar with the meetings told the New York Times that the Iraqi government had promised to consider the option, but the recent flights prove that Washington may have significantly less influence over the Middle Eastern nation than it would like to believe.

American officials confirmed on September 13 that at least seven Russian Condor transport planes had taken off from a base in southern Russia during the past week to bring equipment to Syria, all passing through Iraqi airspace. The planes landed in an airfield south of Latakia, Syria.

“There were military supplies, they are ongoing, and they will continue,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. “They are inevitably accompanied by Russian specialists, who help to adjust the equipment, to train Syrian personnel how to use this weaponry.”

The Obama administration thought it seized an opportunity to block the Russian effort to move military equipment and personnel into Syria when Bulgaria, a NATO member, announced it would close its airspace to the flights. But Russia quickly shifted the flights over Iraq, which has ignored US appeals for shutting its airspace.

US intelligence reports about 200 Russian marines and six Russian howitzers are positioned at the air base south of Latakia. More prefabricated buildings have been delivered, increasing the housing capacity to 1,500 people. Dozens of Russian vehicles have been observed at the base, including about a dozen advanced infantry fighting vehicles.

Some American officials also believe Russian SU-25 and MiG-31 attack planes might arrive in the next phase of the buildup. They could be sent in crates and assembled in Syria or be flown to the base, officials said.

Moscow admits having "military experts" accompanying arms on the ground in Syria, but has not confirmed an increased military presence or stepping up arms supplies to Damascus, which has been gripped with civil war since 2011 with ISIL terrorist group still controlling parts of the country.

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