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Assad Gives Iraq Greenlight to Strike ISIS Within Syria

Region is readying for coming US pullout of troops in Syria
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 30, 2018 11:32 AM CST
This 2016 file image shows aerial images of purported air strikes on an Islamic State group convoy and militants, near Fallujah, Iraq.   (Iraqi Ministry of Defense via AP, File)
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(Newser) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday authorized Iraqi forces to attack the Islamic State inside Syria without waiting for permission from authorities in Damascus, state news agency SANA said, as the two allies coordinate their fight against extremists ahead of a planned US withdrawal from Syria. The announcement highlights the close relations between the two neighboring Arab countries that are both allied with Iran, reports the AP. Iraqi warplanes and artillery have in the past pounded ISIS positions inside Syria after getting the green light from Syrian authorities. The extremists have been defeated in Iraq but still hold a small area in Syria close to the Iraqi border. On Saturday, Assad received a letter from Iraq's Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi calling for both countries' coordination in "fighting terrorism."

The main US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces has expressed concerns that the US plans to pull out could lead to the revival of ISIS, saying that the extremists have not been defeated yet in Syria. In Washington, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, said he is going to encourage Trump to sit down with generals and reconsider pulling troops from Syria. "Slow this down, make sure that we get it right, make sure ISIS never comes back," Graham said on CNN. "Don't turn Syria over to the Iranians. That's a nightmare for Israel." Graham said that it's possible for the US to reduce its footprint in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and that he supports the goal of having allies "do more and pay more." But he added that he also sees the US military playing a role in all three countries for "a while to come." "I want to fight the war in the enemy's backyard, not ours," Graham said.

(Read more Syria stories.)

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