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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid