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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid