News / Middle East

Kerry Presses Maliki to Block Iranian Shipments to Syria

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, leaves after meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 24, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, second right, leaves after meeting with Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, left, in Baghdad, Iraq, March 24, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to Baghdad, where he pressed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to block Iran from using Iraq to resupply embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.   

Secretary Kerry says he and Maliki had "a very spirited discussion" about Iranian shipments to Syria at a time when the United States and other supporters of the Syrian opposition are working to get President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.

"For those of us engaged in that effort, anything that supports President Assad is problematic," Kerry said. "And I made it very clear to the prime minister that the overflights from Iran are in fact helping to sustain President Assad and his regime."

Iraqi officials say Iranian flights to Syria are humanitarian.

U.S. officials say Iran is sending weapons and fighters to Syria on "near-daily" flights, a volume of traffic they say shows Iran's involvement is not entirely humanitarian.

Last September, the Maliki government told then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton it would start inspecting Iranian flights to Syria.  But U.S. officials say only two planes have been searched, and both were found to be carrying humanitarian supplies.

Secretary Kerry says he told Prime Minister Maliki that Americans, including members of Congress, are increasingly watching what Iraq is doing "and wondering how it is that a partner in the efforts for democracy and a partner for whom Americans feel they have tried so hard to be helpful" can be doing something that makes it more difficult to achieve common goals."

Ten years after the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, U.S. influence in Iraq appears eclipsed by Iran as Prime Minister Maliki backs Syria's government, and his Shia supporters dominate Sunni and Kurd opponents.

Johns Hopkins University Professor Ruth Wedgwood says the prime minister is quite candid about his support for Iran's Shia leaders, especially following the withdrawal of nearly all U.S. troops from Iraq.

"There really is nobody for them to worry about," Wedgwood said. "And Maliki seems quite content to have a perpetually unsettled Iraq in which the Sunni will sooner or later find their means to take revenge, but for the moment it is a Shia nation."

U.S. Institute of Peace analyst Steve Heydemann says war in Syria worsens the region's Shia/Sunni divide.

"It is sharpening sectarian divisions within those neighboring countries in ways that could have very, very troubling consequences for stability in those countries," Heydemann said. "And I think Iraq is one of the countries most at risk of instability as a result of the Syrian conflict."

Prime Minister Maliki's Cabinet has delayed next month's provincial elections in two largely-Sunni provinces due to what it says are concerns for the safety of poll workers.

Secretary Kerry says the Obama administration believes very strongly that everyone needs to vote simultaneously.  So he is asking the Maliki Cabinet to take another look at its decision, a reconsideration that he says the prime minister told him is "appropriate."

You May Like

Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

There is growing uncertainty over whether West’s response to ISIS is adequate More

China Crackdown on Dual Citizens Causes Concern

New policy encourages reporting people who obtain citizenship in another country, but retain Chinese citizenship; move spurs sharp debate More

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

Losing ground to Islamic State fighters, Syria's government says it is ready to cooperate with international community More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursionsi
X
Zlatica Hoke
August 28, 2014 4:07 AM
Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Accuses Russia of Territorial Incursions

Ukraine says a key border town (Novoazovsk) and surrounding areas of in southeastern Ukraine have fallen under the control of Russia's military. President Poroshenko says "Russian troops have actually been brought into Ukraine." Despite repeated denials from Moscow, Ukraine accuses the Kremlin of providing weapons and fighters to separatists in eastern Ukraine, toward the Russian leadership's alleged goal of annexing that strategic territory. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid