BAGHDAD: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki flew to Washington yesterday, seeking urgent military supplies to fight an upsurge in sectarian violence spilling over the Syrian border.
He will also present himself to President Barack Obama as a potential mediator for him with Iran and Tehran’s Syrian ally, Bashar Al Assad, Iraqi sources said — though US officials played down the prospect of Maliki playing such a role.
Two years after his last visit, as US troops were leaving Iraq, Iraq is suffering bombings on a scale not seen since the bloody sectarian chaos of 2006-08. Seeking a third term next year, he also seems to be looking to the shifting diplomatic geometry in the Middle East to help entrench his position. Speaking at Baghdad airport before flying out for three days of talks in Washington that will culminate at the White House on Friday, Maliki said it was “urgent” that Iraq receive “offensive weapons to combat terrorism and hunt armed groups”.
He stressed a need for helicopters and other equipment. Aides have also cited drones as useful for patrolling a border across which the Shia-led government says Al Qaeda and other Sunni groups fighting President Assad in Syria are bringing in men and arms that have killed more than 7,000 Iraqis this year.
“We will discuss security and intelligence in addition to arms needed by the military to fight terrorism,” said Maliki, who will meet Vice President Joe Biden today and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel with senior US generals tomorrow.
He cited the threat from Syria was high on his agenda and distanced himself from comments by aides who called for faster delivery of F-16 jets, due to arrive in about a year. Reuters