CAIRO, EGYPT - The Iraqi military says it has entered the Anbar province capital of Ramadi from the west and is attempting to advance on the center of the city. The report comes amid a dispute between the Iraqi government and United States over Russian participation in the battle against IS.
Iraqi state TV is reporting government forces have entered the Anbar province capital of Ramadi from its western outskirts, after clearing mines and other booby traps laid by Islamic State militants.VOA could not independently confirm the extent of the Iraqi advance.
Anbar operations spokesman General Yehya Rassoul told the TV the joint operation by Iraqi military, police, tribesmen and Shi'ite volunteers was advancing on the center of Ramadi.
He said Iraqi forces were waging a battle to liberate Ramadi and pursuing their advance toward the city center on several sides, destroying enemy defenses. Islamic State militants were fleeing, he added, due to the heavy strikes against them.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al Abadi insisted during a speech Wednesday that Iraq did not want foreign ground troops to help in the battle against IS, and that “air operations must be coordinated with the Iraqi military.”He denied that security cooperation with Russia had begun.
He said cooperation among Iraq, Iran and Russia probably would not start for at least three months.
Iraqi military analyst and former Interior Ministry spokesman Abdel Karim Khalaf told state TV the “agreement for Russia to join air operations in Iraq has been approved by both Russia and Iraq 'at the highest levels.'”
The U.S. coordinator of operations against the Islamic State group, General John Allen, met with top Iraqi officials Wednesday in Baghdad to discuss the ongoing conflict. U.S. Ambassador Stuart Jones also met with Iraqi Parliament Speaker Selim Jabbouri to discuss an eventual vote by lawmakers to authorize Russian security cooperation with Iraq.
The Saudi-owned Arab daily Al Hayat quoted a U.S. official Wednesday as saying that “airstrikes against IS would probably continue” if Russia joined the battle, but “there would be fewer of them.”