Iraq lets Iran fly arms to Syria despite U.S. protests (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Kristina Wong 03/16/12)
WASHINGTON TIMES Articles-Index-Top
The Iraqi government has refused U.S. requests to stop Iranian cargo
flights to Syria, despite being aware of credible intelligence that
the planes are transporting up to 30 tons of weapons, according to a
The U.S. has made several requests in recent months to the Iraqi
government, including directly to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to
either halt the flights or allow the planes to be inspected in
compliance with international law.
Iraq has refused, saying the planes are carrying only humanitarian
Iranian cargo flights to Syria were reported as the bloody uprising
against Syrian President Bashar Assad enters its second year and as
Iran flouts international sanctions over its secretive nuclear
Meanwhile, Iraq is roiling with sectarian violence and political
unrest in the aftermath of the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops in
According to the U.S. official, intelligence about the Iranian cargo
flights was obtained through the interception of air traffic control
communications. Manifests of the planes’ cargo have
listed “agricultural equipment” and “flowers.”
A high-level White House official recently spoke directly with Mr. al-
Maliki about the issue, the official said.
Mr. al-Maliki, a Shiite, has been accused of tilting his government
toward its more powerful neighbor, Iran, which is governed under a
Shiite theocracy. The day after the last U.S. troops left Iraq, Mr.
al-Maliki issued an arrest warrant for the country’s highest-ranking
Sunni official, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, accusing him of
Situated between Iran and Syria, Iraq is an ideal transit route
between the two Middle Eastern countries. But allowing cargo flights
of weapons to Syria could mean that Iraq is in violation of U.N.
Security Council Resolutions 1929 and 1747, which ban arms exports
A spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy in Washington said he could not
provide immediate comment and that he expects to receive a response
from his government in coming days.
In Syria, more than 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad
regime’s year-old crackdown on dissent, according to a U.N. estimate.
Syrian forces and opposition rebels, led by military defectors,
increasingly are clashing in city streets in what many say is
becoming a civil war.
During congressional testimony last week, the commander of U.S.
Central Command, which monitors and conducts operations in the Middle
East, acknowledged that Iran is sending weapons to Syria.
“In terms of Iran, they are working earnestly to keep Assad in power.
They have flown in experts. They are flying in weapons. It is a full-
throated effort by Iran to keep Assad there and oppressing his own
people,” Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis told the Senate Armed
“They are providing the kind of weapons that are being used right now
to suppress the opposition,” Gen. Mattis said.
However, the Obama administration has rejected calls to arm the
Syrian opposition, saying such a move would only worsen the
situation. On Thursday, France also rejected a call to arm the
Still, U.S. officials have been reviewing diplomatic and military
options to halt the violence in Syria.
“We are going to continue to keep the pressure up, and are looking
for every tool available to prevent the slaughter of innocents in
Syria,” President Obama said Feb. 24.
Iranian influence has grown in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion
forced the ouster of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, with Tehran
providing monetary aid and other assistance to Baghdad.
Iran is also Syria’s closest, longtime ally in the region. During the
Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Syria sided with Iran. Both Syria and
Iran support the Islamic militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon, and
both are considered enemies of Israel.
Although there is a small U.S. military presence in Iraq, most U.S.
troops exited the region precipitously last year, when negotiations
on immunity for U.S. troops broke down.
Only a few hundred military personnel remain in Iraq, along with
about 500 security contractors and thousands of staffers at the U.S.
Embassy. (© 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. 03/16/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY