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Iraq's Maliki Presses for US Military Aid

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is appealing to the United States for more help to fight a surge of violence in his country.

Mr. Maliki met Thursday with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top officials in Washington. They discussed the political and security situation in Iraq and ways to enhance bilateral strategic cooperation.

Earlier, at a speech in Washington, the Iraqi leader said the fight against organizations such as al-Qaida in Iraq and the al-Nusra Front is preventing his government from moving forward on other issues.

"Regretfully, the Arab revolutions were able to shake the dictatorships, but were not able to fill the void in the right way, so a vacuum was created and al-Qaida and other organizations were able to exploit it and gain ground."

While the Iraqi government blames much of its troubles on terrorism, analysts say much more than terrorism is at play.

The violence is largely sectarian, they say, and fueled by many complicating factors including a political deadlock in Baghdad and a spillover of al-Qaida activity from the conflict in Syria.

Maliki again minimized those factors on Thursday, saying he came to Washington to consolidate a joint counterterrorism strategy with an ally that has "shed blood together fighting terrorists in Iraq."

"Counterterrorism has specific needs, weapons-wise. Its not about Abrams tanks or long-range missiles, or artillery, or F-16s. It has its specific weaponry. So aside from mobilizing the people and political forces enhancing national union, we also need intelligence information that will help us target the strongholds, and the cells and the groups of terrorists."

Mr. Maliki had previously stressed the need for upgrades to Iraq's air defenses and other military aid, warning that al-Qaida is exploiting sectarian rifts to carry out a terrorist campaign.

On Friday, Mr. Maliki will speak with President Barack Obama at the White House, where he is expected to ask for more help in improving Iraq's military capabilities.

A senior U.S. official said a delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Iraq is on track for late next year despite some earlier delays. Iraq recently made a $650 million down payment for the planes.

But a group of influential U.S. senators is urging caution, arguing that Mr. Maliki's leadership is a key factor behind the deteriorating situation in post-war Iraq, where growing sectarian fighting has led to more than 7,500 deaths this year.

Senator John McCain is among a group of six senators who want Mr. Maliki to come up with a political and security strategy to stabilize the country. They are calling for increased counterterrorism support for Iraq, but only as part of a comprehensive plan that unites Iraqis of every sect.

Iraq's ethnic Kurds, minority Sunnis and the ruling, majority Shi'ites have struggled to find a stable way of sharing power following the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled longtime Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Many Sunnis have protested against the government, accusing it of marginalizing them politically and ignoring their demands.

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