News / USA

US Senator Casts Doubt on Arms Sales to Iraq

FILE - Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez.
FILE - Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez.
Michael Bowman

A powerful U.S. lawmaker says he will block American arms sales to Iraq unless he is satisfied weaponry dispatched will not fall into the hands of radical Islamic insurgents that have overrun large swaths of Iraqi territory.  Senators of both parties pressed administration officials for information about the current state of Iraq’s beleaguered security forces at a hearing Thursday.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Robert Menendez, says Iraq’s military has failed on the battlefield, despite years of intensive U.S. training.

“They deserted the communities they were responsible for protecting, abandoned U.S. military equipment, and fled from ISIS fighters," Menendez said.

Absent assurances of bolstered Iraqi military capabilities, Menendez said he would oppose further U.S. arms sales to Baghdad.

“This chair is not going to be willing to approve more arms sales so they can be abandoned to go into the hands of those we are seriously concerned about in terms of our national security interests," he said.

The Pentagon has completed an initial assessment of Iraqi security forces, but has yet to provide conclusions or recommendations to members of Congress.  Thursday, a Pentagon spokesman said the focus of the review effort “is on accuracy and detail as opposed to speed.”

When pressed by senators at Thursday’s hearing, the Defense Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Security Affairs, Elissa Slotkin, painted a mixed picture of Iraq’s military.

“There are some very capable units that have high morale and are willing and capable of fighting, and there are others units where morale is lower, where there may not be as much capability and willingness to actually fight," said Slotkin.

Senators of both parties blamed Iraq’s fragmented, sectarian-focused leadership for chaos and unrest in the country, and said the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant must be contained. 

The State Department’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran, Brett McGurk, described ISIL as "a full-blown army" and "worse than al-Qaida" - with a potential reach far beyond the Middle East.

“ISIL is able to funnel 30 to 50 suicide bombers a month into Iraq.  We assess these are almost all foreign fighters" he said. "It would be very easy for ISIL to decide to funnel that cadre of dedicated suicide bombers - global jihadists - into other capitals around the region, or Europe, or, worse, here [in the United States]."

Earlier in the day, Iraq’s parliament picked a new president, Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum, but has yet to choose a prime minister.  The Defense Department’s Elissa Slotkin said a new government will have to appeal to Iraq’s restive Sunni population in order to combat ISIL’s influence.  She did not downplay the importance of security forces, but said what Iraq needs most is a “political compromise” in Baghdad.

You May Like

Multimedia US Defense Secretary: Iraqi Forces Lack 'Will to Fight'

Ash Carter criticizes Iraq's reaction to Islamic State; National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed Carter's concerns in an interview on CBS More

Boko Haram Surrounds Havens With Land Mines

Chad and Cameroon say huge numbers of land mines planted by Boko Haram fighters along Cameroon's border with Nigeria are a danger to people, livestock and soldiers More

Women Peace Activists Cross Korean DMZ

Governments of Koreas give international delegation of women peace activists permission to pass through heavily fortified border, but some critics say symbolic crossing only benefits Pyongyang More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs