الأحد , يونيو 7 2020

IS ‘significantly’ damaged

Screengrab from video published by Al Jazeera believed to show an Iranian F4 fighter jet carrying out air strikes [Courtesy of Al Jazeera]Analysts said Al Jazeera footage showed an Iranian F4 Phantom jet over Iraq (Photo courtesy of Al Jazeera)

Air strikes carried out by the US-led coalition on Islamic State (IS) have inflicted “significant” damage on the group’s capabilities, US Secretary of State John Kerry says.

Mr Kerry said the campaign against the militant group could take years, but that the coalition would remain engaged “as long as it takes”.

The US said earlier that Iran, not a coalition member, had carried out air strikes against IS in Iraq.

However, Iran has denied this.

The US said there had been no coordination with the Iranians on any air strikes.

IS controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, imposing a rigid version of Sunni Islam and persecuting or killing non-believers.

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Analysis: Jonathan Marcus, BBC News

The reported Iranian air strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq underscore that while Iran and the US are not exactly on the same side in this struggle (due not least to the Iranians’ support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria) they do at least share the same enemy in IS.

Iran is of course a long-standing ally of Iraq’s Shia-dominated government and was the first country to offer military support for its campaign against IS. Earlier this year Iran provided a number of SU-25 Frogfoot combat aircraft to Iraq which may well be crewed by Iranian pilots.

Iran has also provided high-level military expertise and there have been unconfirmed reports of Iranian armour being involved in fighting on the ground. Washington and Tehran have certainly had discussions about the common IS threat but it is far from clear how much, if any, actual coordination there has been between them.

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‘Danger to all’

Mr Kerry was speaking at a meeting in Brussels of officials from all of the nations involved in the coalition.

“Our commitment will be measured most likely in years but our efforts are already having a significant impact,” he said.

Two months of air strikes had “reduced Daesh’s [IS] leadership and inflicted damage on its logistical and operational capabilities”.

Thanks to coalition action, he said, it had become much harder for IS to “assemble forces and strength, to travel in convoys and to launch concerted attacks”.

“No large Daesh unit can move forward aggressively without worrying about what will come down on it from the sky,” Mr Kerry said.

According to a list compiled by the US state department, at least 62 countries are members of the coalition, although most play no direct role in the air strikes.

Map of IS areas of control

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is attending the talks along with foreign ministers from European, Arab and other countries.

They will discuss the best military strategy against IS and how to stem the flow of foreign fighters to Iraq and Syria.

Significant differences remain between the US and Turkey, with Turkey demanding the establishment of a safe area along part of its border with Syria before it allows its air bases to be used to launch air strikes.

‘Nothing has changed’

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm John Kirby said the US had received indications that Iran had conducted its own air strikes in Iraq in recent days.

Shia Muslim-ruled Iran has close ties to Iraq’s Shia-led government, which has struggled to counter IS in the north and west.

BBC map

It is believed that Iranian Phantom jets struck in the eastern province of Diyala, where Iraqi government troops are battling the militants.

A jet filmed over Iraq by Qatari-based broadcaster Al-Jazeera has been identified by Jane’s Defence Weekly as an Iranian Phantom.

“Nothing has changed about our policy of not co-ordinating military activity with the Iranians,” Rear Adm Kirby said.

The unnamed Iranian official who spoke to Reuters said: “Iran has never been involved in any air strikes against the Daesh [Islamic State] targets in Iraq. Any co-operation in such strikes with America is also out of question for Iran.”

Earlier, the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces, Brig-Gen Massoud Jazayeri, was quoted as telling Iran’s Fars news agency it was “totally untrue” that Iran had cooperated with the coalition in bombing IS targets.

He said Iran considered the US responsible for Iraq’s “unrest and problems” and that the US would “definitely not have a place in the future of that country”.

Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, the US and Iran have had a fraught relationship.

Washington severed ties the following year after Iranian students occupied the US embassy in Tehran and took 52 Americans hostage. They were freed in 1981.

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