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 Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    Party's presumptive presidential nominee, her vice presidential pick deliver optimistic message in Florida as they campaign for first time together

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora