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White House Asserts Commitment to Iraq, Rejects Criticism

The White House says President Barack Obama wants new military assistance to Iraq provided as quickly as possible, as the Baghdad government faces its most serious extremist threats in years.

The aid includes 100 Hellfire missiles, surveillance drones and Apache helicopters. The helicopter deliveries have been blocked for months by U.S. lawmakers skeptical about Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's commitment to political reconciliation in his divided homeland.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chief Robert Menendez is among those lawmakers. He is first seeking assurances the helicopters will not be used against Iraqi civilians. He and other legislators are also pressing Mr. Maliki to stop Iranian transport deliveries of military aid to Syria through Iraqi airspace.

Meanwhile, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner, said Thursday the president has not been sufficiently engaged personally on Iraq, instead delegating those responsibilities to Vice President Joe Biden. White House spokesman Jay Carney rejected that critique.

Boehner did not offer specifics in his criticism, and, when pressed by reporters, said he does not support re-deploying U.S. troops to the country.

All U.S. troops were withdrawn from Iraq in December 2011.

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FILE - Police from the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team take part in an anti-terrorist drill in Dongying, Shandong province, July 11, 2014.

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