A report that Iran and Russia were to run a joint operations room in Iraq to combat the Islamic State (IS) group is spreading across Iran's media.
The report originates in Lebanon's "Al-Mustaqbal" newspaper, which cites unnamed "Iraqi sources" as saying that Russian and Iranian military experts were to work with the Iraqi military to establish a joint anti-IS operations room.
The unnamed Iraqi sources went on to say that more than 60 Russian and other experts were currently in Baghdad and staying at the Royal Tulip Al Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad's Green Zone. The experts specialize in the training of officers and Iraqi pilots as well as the use of Russian military equipment, including the helicopters that Moscow recently supplied to Baghdad. Earlier this month, Russian media reported that Iraq had received a third consignment of Russian Mi-35M helicopters.
"Al-Mustaqbal" wrote that the Russian-Iranian axis would compete with their American rivals to provide military and logistical assistance to the Iraqi government in its battle against IS militants.
It is not possible to independently verify the "Al-Mustaqbal" report.
Russia's official media has -- unsurprisingly -- not reported on any rumors of plans for a joint operations room with Iran in Iraq.
However, Moscow is continuing to stress that it is providing both Iraq and Syria with aid, including military assistance, to help them combat IS.
The TASS news agency published an interview with Nikolai Patrushev, the Secretary of Russia's Security Council, who visited Iran this week, and who insisted that "the actions of any coalition on the territory of a sovereign state should be based on a UN mandate."
Patrushev said that Russia had "always supported and continues to support the efforts of the Iraqi and Syrian authorities to combat militants from various extremist groups. The assistance provided by us was also in the military field. We supply Iraq and Syria with weapons that actually strengthen their ability to counter terrorists."
On October 23, Russia's Ministry of Defense announced that Moscow had provided humanitarian assistance, including foodstuffs, blankets, mobile generators, and tents -- to Iraqi Kurds in Irbil who are "suffering as a result of continued fighting with the terror group IS in north western Iraq."
Over the past week, Russia has also said that Iran is an important partner in the fight against IS. Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said on October 21 that "the so-called coalition [the U.S.-led anti-IS coalition] refuses to cooperate with Damascus and Tehran, who are logical allies in the fight against terrorism in the region."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk