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
News

Turkey: Voting begins in country's first direct presidential…

Some 53 million people are able to vote in the election, including 2.8 million citizens abroad. Until now, Turkish presidents were elected by parliament.

News

Libya seeks ceasefire as south Tripoli a militia…

By Patrick Markey and Aziz El YaakoubiTRIPOLI (Reuters) - Black plumes of smoke marked shell blasts and bulldozed earthen barricades mapped out the frontlines around…

Breaking: News

Russia mad about sanctions, says U.S. contributing to…

Russia reacted angrily on Saturday to additional sanctions imposed by the European Union over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis, saying they would hamper cooperation…

National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Television

'Game of Thrones' livens up Comic Con with…

By Piya Sinha-RoySAN DIEGO (Reuters) - Laughter and death did battle on Friday at HBO's "Game of Thrones" panel at Comic Con, one of the…

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Sports

Kevin Love becomes third NBA player to pull…

Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves became the third NBA player to withdraw from consideration for Team USA in next month's World Cup, USA Basketball.

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.