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Iraqi Military Hosts Counterparts From Russia, Iran, Syria

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi prepares to erect a national flag in Al-Qaim to mark victory over Islamic State in November 2017. (file photo)
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi prepares to erect a national flag in Al-Qaim to mark victory over Islamic State in November 2017. (file photo)

Iraq says its senior military commanders have met in Baghdad with their counterparts from Russia, Iran, and Syria to discuss regional security and the fight against Islamic State (IS) and other militants.

The Defense Ministry on September 1 said it hosted delegations led by the country’s deputy chiefs of staff to "strengthen cooperation and coordination in terms of security and intelligence between these countries."

Russia and Iran have provided support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his seven-year fight against Western-backed rebels.

IS militants also entered the fighting and are opposed by all other sides.

The militants captured large chunks of territory in Syria and Iraq before being pushed out of their strongholds mainly by U.S.-led coalition forces and are now confined to small enclaves in the two countries.

Iran is also a close ally of the government in Baghdad, which is attempting to balances its relations with bitter rivals Washington and Tehran.

Iraq, Iran, Russia, and Syria have created a joint-operation effort to coordinate the fight against the estimated 2,000 IS fighters still active.

Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department on September 1 said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with the Iraqi prime minister and vice president to express support for Baghdad's efforts to form a "moderate, nationalist" government that would serve all Iraqis.

Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Pompeo made clear to Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi "the importance of safeguarding Iraq's sovereignty during this critical time" amid current political rambling following the recent national elections.

Nauert said Pompeo also spoke with Vice President Ayad Allawi. Abadi and powerful Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced on June 23 that they had agreed on a political coalition to form a new government.

Sadr's political bloc, which includes communists, won 54 seats in the legislative elections, making it the largest grouping in Iraq's 329-seat parliament.

The political uncertainty helped raise tensions amid growing public anger over poor basic services, unemployment, and the slow pace of rebuilding following the long battle with IS.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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