A jihadi militant fires a heavy machine gun during fighting near the threatened Kurdish city of Kobane in Syria. Photo: AFP.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Syria’s national reconciliation minister said that Iran and Russia could become part of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State jihadis in his country and Iraq.
“There is a possibility that the coalition widens and Iran and Russia will join the efforts in coordination with both Syria and Iraq,” Ali Haidar said.
In an exclusive interview with Rudaw, he added that his government welcomed the air raids by US and allied jets.
“We support any international effort to destroy terrorist groups such as the IS and (al-Qaeda’s) al-Nusrah Front,” he said.
US air raids against the religious fanatics have been ongoing in Iraq since last month. The US and five Arab countries began pounding the IS in Syria in air raids that began only last week.
There has been greater reluctance by Western allies -- in the coalition of some 50 nations that have come together to defeat the jihadi forces – for air raids over Syria. That is because Iraq’s government had asked for the raids but the Syrian government had not.
Haidar said that, while the strikes were welcome, his government had certain conditions.
“This means that the Syrian state institutions and the Syrian army bases should not be targeted under any circumstances,” he said. “In other words, there should be complete coordination with the Syrian government.”
Haidar said his government had received prior notice of the raids.
“We were notified of the attacks in advance by our ambassador to the UN,” he said. “We also had consultations with the Iraqi government regarding the ongoing events in Syria.”
Asked about the five Arab countries that supported US fighters or joined in the first raids over Syria, Haidar said his government did not have a problem with that.
“We are not against either the Saudis or the Turks or Qataris or Jordanians, for that matter, to join the attacks on IS. These countries were the reason the IS was formed originally. If they now join the attacks on IS, then it’s a good thing.”
Haidar explained that the reason Syrian jets had not helped the Kurdish city of Kobane, against rebel assaults that were beaten off by the allied air raids, was because of Turkey.
“We have a standoff with the Turkish government and this is why our air force could not fly there close to their borders,” he said, adding that Turkey had once shot down a Syrian jet that had gotten too close.