Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is headed to the United States, where he is expected to ask President Barack Obama to provide his country with more air support and billions of dollars in new arms shipments to fight Islamic State militants.
Abadi said Monday the United States has already increased its support of Iraq, "but we want to see more," as Baghdad's forces attempt to recapture vast reaches of their country that have been seized by the insurgents in the last year.
''We, in Iraq, are fighting terrorists on the ground. Terrorism is not only threatening Iraq, it threatens the region and the world alike," Abadi said as he left Baghdad. "We are in need of international support for curbing terrorism. The militants are now smuggling oil and antiquities in order to get money. Thus we are in need of an international effort to halt all criminal attempts by terrorists who aim to continue the bloodletting in Iraq.''
The Iraqi prime minister will meet with President Obama at the White House Tuesday, his first visit to Washington as prime minister. He is expected to ask that the U.S. defer payment on any new arms shipments, since Iraq is short of cash because of declining world oil prices and the cost of its military campaign against Islamic State.
U.S. officials said Monday they are not aware of any specific requests. White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president is looking forward to meeting with Abadi and is supportive of his efforts to united Iraq. The spokesman added that Obama will consider any specific requests for increased assistance.
U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said American officials "will consider any request he makes."
The United States for months has led an international coalition conducting an aerial bombardment of Islamic State positions in Iraq and Syria and provided arms and training for Iraqi forces. But Obama has ruled out sending ground troops into the fight, three years after the U.S. ended ground combat in the country. The American leader has dispatched 3,000 troops to Iraq, in part to offer advice on Baghdad's ground operation.
The Iraqi forces have succeeded in recent weeks in retaking substantial territory from the Islamic States fighters, including Tikrit, after a month-long battle. But the insurgents still hold large parts of two provinces, Ninevah and Anbar.