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Iraq, UK sign anti-ISIS military cooperation MoU

Najah al-Shammari
Iraqi defence minister Najah al-Shammari with British counterpart Ben Wallace
Iraq signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Thursday, as Britain continues to train Iraqi security forces in their ongoing battle against (ISIS) insurgency.

Defense minister Najah al-Shammari signed the agreement with British counterpart Ben Wallace in London on Thursday, according to an Iraqi Ministry of Defense readout, with the aim of “developing military ties between the two countries.”

A British MoD news release on Thursday termed the agreement a “future defense relationship.”

“This document is a signal of our commitment to continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Iraq until that danger [ISIS] has been diminished, and also to form a longer-term defense relationship,“ the release from London read.

The agreement “focuses on military education,” with the UK working with Iraqi Security Forces to “develop their [Iraqi] intelligence structures and provide wider training and development,” it added.

Around 500 British personnel are currently training Iraqi forces. To date, over 100,000 Iraqi security personnel have been trained in “infantry, weapons maintenance, counter IED, medical and engineering skills,” according to the MoD.

Its forces undertook military action as part of the US-led anti-ISIS coalition, after the ISIS swept through Iraq and Syria in the summer of 2014.

Coalition airstrikes supported Iraqi and Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria in their advances to retake territory from ISIS.

Iraq announced the territorial defeat of ISIS in December 2017, following a three years fight that left much of Iraq’s Sunni heartland devastated.

However, Iraq and Syria are currently seeing resurgence in ISIS activity. The group has reverted to sleeper cell operation and the use of insurgency tactics, including ambushes, kidnaps and killings of officials, tribal heads and civilians alike.

ISIS has been particularly potent in Iraqi territory disputed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and Baghdad.

According to an August 2 Pentagon report, the group have been able to “rebuild in remote territory” and “recruit in these areas [Iraq’s northern and western provinces] using family and tribal connections.”

In an effort to quell the resurgence, Iraqi forces have conducted a host of operations in these areas in recent weeks.

Despite the threats posed by ISIS to Iraq, Iran-aligned politicians and militia leaders have previously called for the expulsion of foreign forces from the country.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abd al-Mahdi has defended the US-led presence in Iraq, asserting that it is present with government permission.

In Thursday’s statement, Wallace admitted that the threat posed by ISIS and al-Qaeda are “very real”.

“The work our personnel are doing in Iraq to help them combat the scourge of terrorism is absolutely vital.”

“Not only are we making a valued international partner more self-sufficient for the future, but we are also keeping our own streets safer by suppressing the spread of ISIS's evil ideology,” Wallace was quoted as saying.