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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More