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

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Video Russian Anti-Corruption Campaigner Slams Putin’s Crackdown on Dissent

In interview with VOA Alexei Navalny says he believes new law against 'undesirable NGOs' part of move to keep Russian president in power More

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs