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

DA: Homeless man severely beat by men in…

Two former college football players pleaded not guilty to the alleged severe beating of a homeless man in Allston earlier this year.

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

Local

Reports: Dead man pulled from water at Boston's…

A dead man was reportedly pulled from the water at Boston's Long Wharf Wednesday afternoon, according to the Boston Fire Department.

Local

Primark to make US debut in Boston

Dublin retailer Primark will make its U.S. debut with a store at the former Filene's site in Boston.

Going Out

Thursty: Revamped Audubon is back in action

Having been a long time fan of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, one of my only complaints about the place is that there's only…

Entertainment

Here's what to do in Boston this weekend

MUSIC Huun Huur Tu Friday, 8 p.m. First Church in Cambridge 11 Garden St., Cambridge $28, 617-876-4275 www.worldmusic.org This group comes from the tiny nation…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

The Word

The best lines from Oprah's ex-stepmother's Daily Mail…

Oprah’s ex-stepmother, Barbara Winfrey, is out for revenge.

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston…

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston greedy for more dominance

MLB

Fantasy baseball: Searching for early season prospects

It’s relatively rare for a mediocre 30-year-old hitter to suddenly go nuts offensively for 162 games. That’s why minor league prospects are so exciting.

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC 'targeting' US international Mix Diskerud

Metro New York has learned Mix Diskerud has drawn “interest” from the expansion MLS side, NYCFC.

MLB

Statistics show plate approach for Red Sox has…

Statistics show plate approach for Red Sox has been off so far in 2014

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."