WASHINGTON— Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is scheduled to meet Friday at the White House with U.S. President Barack Obama, where he's expected to seek help in fighting insurgents in his violence-plagued country. In an address Thursday, Maliki said terrorist groups are taking advantage of power vacuums created by revolutions in the Arab world.
Iraqis are experiencing the worst violence in five years. Bombings, mostly against Shi'ite but also some Sunni targets, are stoking sectarian tensions.
A big reason is the civil war next door in Syria; al-Qaida linked fighters are crossing into Iraq from Syria and civilians are being killed nearly every day.
The uprisings in the Arab world are allowing terrorist groups to make a comeback, says Maliki.
“So a vacuum was created and al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations were able to exploit it and to gain ground. They benefited from the fall of the state structure. So now we are seeing the new reality in the region that allowed terrorism to be back,” he said.
Maliki is in Washington seeking new military aid, like helicopters and assets to gather intelligence, to combat insurgents. He says the war in Syria threatens the entire region.
“We are warning, and we are fearing, and we are worrying of the potential success of the terrorist organizations in Syria. If, God forbid, they win, we and the whole world should do everything to prevent this,” he said.
For months, Iraqi Sunnis have staged anti-government demonstrations, alleging abuse and discrimination by the Shi’ite-led government.
The U.S. has pressed Maliki, a Shi'ite, to share power - and oil revenues - with the country's minority Sunnis and Kurds. Critics say it hasn't happened.
Clifford May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, said candid discussions between Maliki and U.S. officials are necessary.
“If that could lead to the U.S. providing more support for Maliki so he can be more independent of Iran and fight al-Qaida better - that is in his interest and that is in our interest,” said May.
Due to an increase in oil production, Iraq's economy is growing quickly.
Baghdad recently made a $650-million down payment for F-16 fighters as it continues to rebuild its military.