Iraq receives 5 Russian-made jets to fight rebels forces
The government received a boost in its battle with the militants with the arrival in Baghdad late Saturday of five Sukhoi 25 warplanes purchased secondhand from Russia. The aircraft is designed to provide close air support to ground forces and to destroy mobile targets.
Iraqi air force commander Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin said the military is ‘in urgent need of this type of aircraft during this difficult time.’
‘These jets will enter service within a few days - the coming three or four days - in order to support the units and to fight the terrorist ISIL organization,’ he said, referring to the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has spearheaded the Sunni militant offensive.
The planes could be deployed in the fight for Tikrit, a predominantly Sunni city of more than 200,000 some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad, where anger toward Iraq’s Shiite-led government runs deep.
The Islamic State, which already controls vast swaths in northern and eastern Syria amid the chaos of that nation’s civil war, aims to erase the borders of the modern Middle East and impose its strict brand of Shariah law.
In Iraq, the group has formed an alliance of sorts with fellow Islamic militants as well as former members of Saddam’s Baath party, with all of them hoping to overthrow al-Maliki’s Shiite-led government.
The militants have tapped into deep-seated discontent among Iraq’s Sunnis, who largely dominated the country until the U.S.-led overthrow of Saddam brought the Shiite majority to power. Since then, Sunnis have complained of discrimination and said they are unfairly targeted by the country’s security forces.