John Kerry asks Iraq to stop arms to Syria

John Kerry Credit: Getty Images
John Kerry
Credit: Getty Images

Secretary of State John Kerry made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Sunday and said he told Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of his concern about Iranian flights over Iraq carrying arms to Syria.

Washington believes such flights and overland transfers take place nearly every day and help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his efforts to crush a two-year-old revolt against his rule, said a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Kerry said he had told Maliki the Iranian flights through Iraqi airspace were “problematic”.

“Anything that supports President Assad is problematic,” Kerry told reporters. “I made it very clear to the prime minister that the overflights from Iran … are in fact helping to sustain President Assad and his regime.”

Speaking before the meeting, the U.S. official said the Iraqi government had inspected only two flights since last July and that Kerry would argue Iraq did not deserve a role in talks about neighboring Syria’s future unless it tried to stop the suspected arms flow.

Iraqi officials denied allowing the transfer of weapons from Iran to Syria through Iraqi airspace. Abbas al-Bayati, a member of the Security and Defence parliamentary committee, said: “We have done our duty by randomly inspecting a number of Iranian flights and we did not find any leaked or smuggled weapons.”

“If the U.S. is keen to push us to do more they have to give us the information that they have relating to this,” he said.

More than a decade after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq still struggles with insurgents, sectarian friction and political feuds among Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish factions who share power in the government of Shi’ite premier Maliki.

Sunni Islamist insurgents linked to al Qaeda and invigorated by the war next door in Syria – where Sunni rebels are battling Assad, an ally of Shi’ite Iran – are regaining ground in Iraq and have stepped up attacks on Shi’ite targets in recent months in an attempt to provoke a wider sectarian confrontation.

Kerry held talks with representatives of all three communities, including Osama al-Nujaifi, the Sunni speaker of parliament.

He also spoke by telephone to Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdish region, whose regional government is pressing ahead with plans to build an oil pipeline to Turkey that Washington fears could lead to the break-up of Iraq.

According to reporters at a picture-taking session at the start of Kerry’s talks with Maliki, the U.S. diplomat appeared to joke that Hillary Clinton, his predecessor, had said Iraq would do whatever Washington asked.

“The Secretary told me that you’re going to do everything that I say,” Kerry said, according to the reporters.

“We won’t do it,” Maliki, also joking, replied, the reporters said.

SUICIDE BLASTS

In his talks with Maliki, Kerry also asked the Iraqi prime minister and his cabinet to reconsider a decision to postpone local elections in two Sunni-majority provinces, Anbar and Nineveh, the U.S. official said.

The Iraqi cabinet last week postponed the votes, which were due on April 20, for up to six months because of threats to electoral workers and violence there – a step Washington believes will only increase tensions.

While violence has fallen from the height of the sectarian slaughter that killed tens of thousands in 2006-2007, insurgents have carried out at least one major attack a month since U.S. forces left. Bombings and killings still happen daily, often aimed at Shi’ite areas and local security forces.

More than a dozen car bombs and suicide blasts tore through Shi’ite Muslim districts in the Iraqi capital Baghdad and other areas on Tuesday, killing nearly 60 people on the 10th anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam.

Further complicating security, thousands of Sunni protesters have rallied in Anbar against Maliki, whose Shi’ite-led government they accuse of marginalizing their minority sect since the fall of Sunni strongman Saddam.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

NYPD looking for man they say assaulted elderly…

      The New York City Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a Hispanic male 20's wanted in connection with…

Local

Three arrested after allegedly assaulting off-duty officer in…

Three men were arrested early Saturday morning after allegedly assaulting an off-duty officer at a Bronx bodega, and the NYPD is asking for the public's…

Local

Healthcare union creates vibrant West Indian Day Parade…

Volunteers worked almost around the clock through the weekend, putting the flashy finishing touches on hundreds of costume pieces 1199SEIU members will wear while marching…

National

Top 10 most hipster college campuses

Hipsters are everywhere these days. You can't walk down the anywhere anymore without seeing a pair of skinny jeans on a handlebar mustachioed 20-something, a…

Arts

Theater: Discouraging 'Poor Behavior'

Theresa Rebeck's latest off-Broadway play, about two couples sparring on a weekend getaway, repeats a few mistakes of her past.

Gossip

Chef Todd English arrested for DWI in the…

Celebrity chef Todd English is facing DWI charges after a traffic stop on Sunday.

Movies

Box office: 'Guardians of the Galaxy' is 2014's…

This weekend "The Guardians of the Galaxy" passed the fourth "Transformers" movie to become the highest grossing film of 2014.

Gossip

Spears back with controversial ex?

Is Briteny Spears back with Adnan Ghalib?

Sports

Novak Djokovic feeds off US Open crowd to…

Novak Djokovic isn't a native New Yorker, but he sure knows how to use the U.S. Open crowd to his advantage.

NFL

Odell Beckham still 'weeks away,' Tom Coughlin angry…

Giants head coach Tom Coughlin has fought a losing battle against the media all preseason over the status of wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

Education

These college students think breakfast is the most…

  It should be no surprise that the city that never sleeps is also home to the most students who like to order food in…

Sex

When it comes to dating, height matters

Does a man’s height really matter when it comes to dating? Unfortunately - according to a new study - the answer looks like it’s yes.…

Travel

10 free apps to make traveling easier

Finding the nearest bathroom, calculating currency exchanges and locating your departure gate must have been difficult for travelers of previous generations. But we wouldn't know,…

Travel

How to get a seat upgrade to business…

It used to be much easier to upgrade your coach seat to business or even first class, but rigid rules and tighter schedules have made…