President Obama, hosting Iraq’s Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Friday, said they will “work together” to fight terrorist groups, notably “Al Qa’eda”, which has still been active and has grown more active recently”.
Obama held back from a public commitment to the advanced military equipment and other assistance that al-Maliki is seeking.
However, a joint statement pointed to success for the Prime Minister:
Both sides emphasized — on an urgent basis — the need for additional equipment for Iraqi forces to conduct ongoing operations in remote areas where terrorist camps are located.
The Iraqi delegation stressed its desire to purchase U.S. equipment as a means of strengthening long-term institutional ties with the United States, and confirmed its commitment to ensure strict compliance with U.S. laws and regulations on the use of such equipment.
A “senior administration official” indicated on Wednesday that Washington would deliver dozens of F-16 warplanes to Baghdad by late 2014. Iraq is also requesting Apache helicopters.
Senators from both the Republican and Democratic parties have called for a suspension of the Apache sale out of concern that Iraqi forces could use the helicopters on domestic political opponents. Lawmakers also accused al-Maliki of turning a blind eye to Iranian aircraft flying over Iraq to supply the Syrian regime with weapons and fighters.
Earlier this week, six leading senators criticized al-Maliki’s “mismanagement of Iraqi politics”, asserting that Baghdad is beholden to Iran’s “malign influence” as it tips towards civil war.
Al-Maliki appealed to the American people for support, using The New York Times to declare:
Imagine how Americans would react if you had a terrorist organization operating on your own soil that killed dozens and maimed hundreds every week. For Iraqis, that isn’t a hypothetical question; Al Qaeda in Iraq and its affiliates are conducting a terrorist campaign against our people.