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
National

New statue of Penn State's Paterno set for…

By David DeKokHARRISBURG, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - Fundraising for a new statue depicting Joe Paterno "as the man he was and not Joe the football coach"…

Local

NYPD detective shoots partner: DA

A New York City Police detective was arrested early Thursday and charged with driving under the influence while on the clock.

Local

Judge strikes down NY limits on donations to…

A federal judge on Thursday reluctantly struck down New York's limits on donations to independent political action committees as unconstitutional, potentially ushering in a new…

Local

City Council committee moves Williamsburg's Domino refinery deal…

The deal to turn the old Domino Sugar refinery along the Williamsburg waterfront into a new housing complex is one Council vote away from approval.

The Word

Taylor Swift battles paparazzi daily at Tribeca penthouse

We're entranced by these photos of poor Taylor Swift leaving her Tribeca apartment.

Movies

'A Brony Tale' documents men who are into…

Ashleigh Ball, a voice actress on "My Little Pony," speaks to us.

Movies

Tribeca: Nikki Reed on going funny for a…

"Intramural" star Nikki Reed talks about being the straight person in a broad comedy, spending time in Austin and how "Thirteen" was a "miracle."

Going Out

Pop-up cat cafe opens to long lines in…

The country's first pop-up cat cafe opened in New York on Thursday.

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

5 infamous pitcher ejections for cheating

Never fear Yankees fans, Michael Pineda is far from the first MLB pitcher to be thrown out of a game for cheating.

MLB

Yankees pitcher Michael Pineda ejected for using pine…

Pineda was thrown out of the game against the Red Sox Wednesday for having pine tar on his neck -- for all the world to see.

NFL

Giants 2014 regular season schedule

The Giants will play five prime-time games — against the Lions, Redskins, Eagles, Colts and Cowboys.

Parenting

New study: Inside the wage gap between boys…

According to a new study, there's a wage gap between boys and girls, with boys earning more allowance for less chores.

Tech

From Apple TV to Fire TV, big changes…

Apple is set to launch a new generation of it's Apple TV, which grossed over $1 billion in 2013. But competition from Amazon and Google looms.

Style

Katy Perry releases a new Claire’s collection

Katy Perry expands her empire by releasing an accessories collection at Claire's.

Style

MAC & Proenza Schouler collection unveiled

MAC Cosmetics is releasing a new collection with Proenza Schouler.