Russian pilots to fly combat missions for Iraq

Russian pilots to fly combat missions for Iraq

[Ed. – As expected.]

While the Obama administration struggles to speed up delivery of U.S. military assistance to the government of Iraq, Vladimir Putin has already delivered not only fighter jets but also the pilots needed to fly them, diplomatic sources told The Daily Beast. …

“This is very opportunistic and it opens up a lot of questions about that relationship, where it’s going, and how Russia is aligning itself in Iraq,” a senior congressional aide told The Daily Beast on Monday. “It’s definitely something we should be concerned about but it’s not panic time yet.”

If and when Russian jets begin to fly in Iraq, they will be entering an ever more crowded airspace that reportedly includes U.S. and also Iranian drones. But the U.S. is not currently working directly with Russia on tactical or logistical military coordination in Iraq—even though Moscow and Washington suddenly face a common foe there. …

If Russian pilots begin flying attack missions in Iraq, Moscow will be doing the job Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki first asked of the United States. Russia likely won’t officially acknowledge its pilots’ role, if they do carry out strikes or air support missions for Iraqi government troops. Similarly, in the Syrian civil war, there are unconfirmed reports that pilots from North Korea are flying jets in combat.

At Monday’s State Department press briefing, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that the United States has no problem with Iraq acquiring Russian military aircraft. Last week, the head of Iraq’s Air Force announced Russia would also send a batch of MI-35 and MI-28 Russian helicopters.

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