Tuesday 6 December 2016

Iraq 'needs world help in IS fight'

Published 02/06/2015 | 10:36

Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi says international allies must do more to combat Islamic State
Iraq's prime minister Haider al-Abadi says international allies must do more to combat Islamic State

Iraq's military needs more intelligence and action from international allies against Islamic State extremists, the prime minister has said.

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A meeting in Paris of top officials from Iraq and international allies, including the US and France but not Russia, Iran or Syria, comes after IS conquered both the Iraqi city of Ramadi and the historic Syrian city of Palmyra.

More than 4,100 air strikes by the US-led coalition have failed to stem the gains by IS radicals.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said the flow of foreign fighters across the border into Iraq has not slowed and the radical Sunni group is now majority foreign. Less than a year ago, he said, it was 60% Iraqi.

"They have brought hundreds of new fighters, foreign fighters, well trained, well-armed," Mr al-Abadi said.

"This is a transnational organisation. We need all the support of the world, the intelligence of the world and we are not getting it."

No sharp change in strategy is expected to be announced, with both American and other officials insisting alternatives are limited and that Iraqi forces must step up.

Mr Al-Abadi said he is investigating why commanders in Ramadi ordered troops to pull back without fighting IS extremists.

Iraqi forces outnumbered their opposition but fled the city without fighting, leaving behind large numbers of US-supplied vehicles, including several tanks.

This repeats a pattern in which defeated Iraq security forces have over the past year left behind US-supplied military equipment, prompting the US to destroy them in subsequent air strikes against Islamic State forces.

"The Iraqi forces just showed no will to fight," was the blunt assessment from US defence secretary Ash Carter on Sunday.

Mr Al-Abadi disagreed, saying Iraqi soldiers seemed unaware of what they were up against, suggesting that a lack of intelligence from the coalition played a role in losing the city.

"Iraqi forces are prepared to fight," he said. "If you don't have enough intelligence, if you don't have enough from airplanes seeing what's happening in advance, how can you react?"

Mr Al-Abadi's Shiite-dominated government is under pressure to increase the presence of Iraqi Sunnis. A measure to raise their profile in security forces has stalled in the legislature.

A senior US diplomat said the coalition of countries arrayed against Islamic State will make it easier to get weapons to the Iraqi soldiers that need them.

Deputy secretary of state Tony Blinken said Iraq was putting the plan into place. The US is shipping anti-tank rockets to Iraqi forces to use against suicide truck bombs.

Mr Blinken said: "We will redouble our efforts." He said Islamic State "stands for nothing and depends on people who will fall for anything".

Mr al-Abadi said: "Armament and ammunition, we haven't seen much. Almost none. We're relying on ourselves, but fighting is very hard this way."

French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said Iraq's problems would not end until Syria's government changes.

"Stabilisation of Iraq cannot be achieved if there is not a political transition in Syria," he said.

Press Association

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