News / Middle East

In Turnaround, Iraq's Maliki Seeks US Assistance

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) pause for translation as they talk to reporters in the Oval Office after meeting at the White House in Washington, November 1, 2013.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) pause for translation as they talk to reporters in the Oval Office after meeting at the White House in Washington, November 1, 2013.
Cecily Hilleary
Nearly two years ago, the U.S. pulled its last troops out of Iraq.  Since then Iraqis have seen the dramatic resurgence of al-Qaida in Iraq (AQI) and unprecedented sectarian violence that left more than 1,000 dead last month alone.
 
Earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the White House and pressed President Barack Obama for increased military and intelligence assistance he says is necessary to combat the forces threatening his government.  He and Obama also addressed regional security concerns—including the conflict in Syria and the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
 
The request for assistance represents a dramatic turnaround for Maliki, who two years ago rejected a continued U.S. military presence in Iraq.  Critics charge that since then,  he has exacerbated sectarian tensions in Iraq and forged a close relationship with Iran, thus raising fears of Iranian ascendancy in the region.  

Ahmed AliAhmed Ali
x
Ahmed Ali
Ahmed Ali
Ahmed Ali, senior Iraq research analyst and Iraq Team Leader at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War says he believes the Iraqi government is ill-equipped to stop Al Qaeda, which has been carrying out regular car bombings and other attacks on pro-government citizens.

“The violence is partly due to the rising capabilities of AQI and is also partly due to the discontent that the Iraqi Sunnis feel,” Ali said.  “The Iraqi Sunnis do feel marginalized by the Baghdad government. They also perceive the Baghdad government to be sectarian.  That does not mean that all Iraqi Sunnis are carrying arms and fighting against the central government. What it does mean, however, is that AQI is in a position to win the sympathy of the population.” 

Maliki wants advanced weaponry
 
The United States has sold and delivered more than $14 billion in equipment, services and training to Iraqi military and security forces since 2005, including military transport aircraft, reconnaissance helicopters, patrol boats to guard oil platforms and a surface-to-air missile battery. 
 
Last year, Iraq signed a new contract to buy 18 F-16 fighter jets from the United States to add to the 18 it had already purchased.  Those are slated to be delivered next year. 
 
In addition, last September, the United States also gave Iraq surveillance balloons, communication towers and cameras to aid in its security efforts. 

But Maliki wants more and is urging the United States to sell him advanced weapons systems.  Though details of the talks have not yet been made, a UPI report says Iraq wants to purchase Lockheed Martin AGM114 Hellfire air-to-surface missiles and the Boeing AH-64A/D Apache gunships to carry them.

Following his meeting with the prime minister, Obama told reporters that the U.S. wants to do what it can to help bring peace and security to Iraq.  He also said he was encouraged by Maliki’s past efforts to work toward giving Iraq’s Sunni, Shia and Kurd communities a more equal voice in government.  And he said he urged Iraq to pass a long-stalled election law, so that Iraqis could settle their differences politically, not violently.

However, it is not yet clear what, if any, promises were made or, more importantly, whether the U.S. Congress would approve any such arms deal.

Worries over how weapons could be used

Juan Cole, director of the Center for the Middle East and North African Studies at the University of Michigan, says the U.S. clearly has an obligation to try to make things “right” in Iraq.  But he has some big concerns about Baghdad getting ahold of more advanced weapons. 

Juan ColeJuan Cole
x
Juan Cole
Juan Cole
“His [Maliki's] constituency is getting blown up every other day, and frankly, I’m puzzled by this,” Cole said.  “The Iraqi army got itself together to the point where it could stand and fight Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi army.  So why can’t they counter terrorism?”
 
He also worries about how these weapons might be used.
 
“Maliki seems to have difficulty distinguishing between the real insurgency that he faces and the political demands of the general Sunni population,” Cole said, pointing to Iraqi military raid on a Sunni protester camp in Hawija last April, in which 50 people died and 180 were wounded.  
 
Before the United States gives any aid or weaponry to Iraq, Cole says Maliki needs to offer strong assurances that they would be used only in fighting AQI--not political opponents.

Senators urge political change

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator John McCain and five members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations panels recently sent a letter to Obama expressing their concerns about Maliki’s request.  They aren’t happy with Iran’s growing influence over Iraq and its use of Iraqi airspace to send military support to the Syrian regime.  While they support further intelligence sharing, they would set certain conditions before approving further arms sales. 

They are calling on Maliki to hold free and fair elections and to also resolve disputes with Kurds over territory and oil revenues before he receives the U.S. support he says he needs to secure Iraq’s future.

You May Like

Cambodia Seeks Official UN Maps for Vietnam Border

Notice of request comes as 2 countries open border talks Tuesday after a clash last month More

From South Africa to Vietnam, Cyclists Deliver Message Against Rhino Horns

Appalled by poaching they saw firsthand, sisters embark on tour to raise awareness in countries where rhino horn products are in demand More

Uber Wants Johannesburg Police Protection

Request follows recent protests outside ride-hailing service's Johannesburg office More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: k55f from: usa
November 09, 2013 10:35 AM
"Last year, Iraq signed a new contract to buy 18 F-16 fighter jets from the United States to add to the 18 it had already purchased. Those are slated to be delivered next year. " and "Cole says Maliki needs to offer strong assurances that they would be used only in fighting AQI--not political opponents."
Fighting insurgents in cities and towns requires a large, dedicated police force. Not F-16 fighters.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Maia Pujara
July 07, 2015 10:01 PM
A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video New Implant Could Help Restore Movement to Paralyzed Limbs

A half-million people suffer spinal cord injuries each year because of car accidents, serious falls and diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Researchers are now working on a soft but strong spinal cord implant that could one day restore movement in paralyzed individuals. VOA’s Maia Pujara reports.
Video

Video Getting it Done Beyond a Nuclear Deal

If a nuclear deal is reached between Iran and world powers in Vienna, it will be a highly technical road map to be used to monitor nuclear activity in Iran for years to come to ensure Tehran does not make nuclear weapons. Equally as complicated will be dismantling international sanctions that were originally intended to be ironclad. VOA’s Heather Murdock talks to experts about the key challenges any deal will present.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.

VOA Blogs