Skip to main content

Russia keeps eye on Islamic State

Russia views the expansion of the Islamic State in Iraq as a threat to its own security, especially given the potential return home of Russian-born jihadists.
Peshmerga fighters walk at Mosul Dam in northern Iraq August 21, 2014. Iraqi and Kurdish forces recaptured Iraq's biggest dam from Islamist militants with the help of U.S. air strikes to secure a vital strategic objective in fighting that threatens to break up the country, Kurdish and U.S. officials said on Monday.  REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS MILITARY) - RTR438UJ
Read in 

It seems that Moscow has yet to take a position on the rapidly changing situation in Iraq, including the US airstrikes against the Islamic State (IS), a movement that is regarded as a serious threat to Russia’s security. Russian analysts have carefully considered the assessment of IS made by US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel on Aug. 21 that IS is "as sophisticated and well-funded as any organization we’ve seen." When answering questions, however, Hagel further elaborated: "This is beyond anything we’ve seen."

The experienced Hagel has every reason to think so, as no one actually doubts the potential of IS. It is true, though, that there are other opinions. David Goldman at the Middle East Forum believes that "[IS] by itself is overrated." The Achilles’ heel of the IS militants/killers is the fact that they lack any kind of aircraft whatsoever, meaning that — in a territory with virtually no place to hide — they can neither win the war nor cause appreciable damage to an enemy in a position of complete air supremacy. Goldman mentions that the IS fighters "occupy terrain where aerial reconnaissance can identify every stray cat. The Saudi and Jordanian air forces are quite capable of defending their borders. Saudi Arabia has over 300 F-15s and 72 Typhoons, and more than 80 Apache attack helicopters. Jordan has 60 F-16s, as well as 25 Cobra attack helicopters."

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.