U.S. consults Iraq about Iranian arms flights to Syria / Baghdad vouches for its protection of airspace (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Kristina Wong 03/19/12)
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The State Department has said the U.S. and other countries are
consulting with Iraq about Iranian flights of weapons to Syria after
Iraq’s prime minister denied a report in The Washington Times saying
Baghdad is allowing such flights.
“We are concerned about the overflight of Iraq by Iranian cargo
flights headed to Syria,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria
Nuland said Friday, adding that the U.S. and other nations want to
work with Iraq to be “absolutely sure about any cargo that’s
overflying its territory.”
Earlier Friday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a
statement saying that his government does not allow Iran to fly
weapons into Syria. Baghdad is “moving forward [in] drying up the
sources of violence and weapons in general and for the case of Syria
in particular,” he said.
The U.S. and Iraqi statements followed a report in The Times that
Washington has made several requests in recent months to Baghdad,
including directly to Mr. al-Maliki, to either stop allowing Iran to
use its airspace or allow the planes to be inspected in compliance
with international law.
A U.S. official told The Times that Iraq´s government has ignored
credible intelligence that the planes are transporting up to 30 tons
of weapons and has said the Iranian cargo flights were transporting
only humanitarian aid.
What’s more, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Congress
last week that the Iraqi government has asked Iran to stop flying
cargo planes through its airspace.
“On the issue of Iranian shipments crossing through their airspace,
they have in fact demarched Iran to cease doing that,” Army Gen.
Martin E. Dempsey testified before the Senate Armed Services
Committee on March 7.
“They have requested - remember now, they don’t have the ability to
control their airspace. They can’t interdict anyone crossing it, but
they have on more than one occasion insisted that Iranian air flights
across Iraq would land to be inspected.”
According to the U.S. official, intelligence about the Iranian cargo
flights of weapons was obtained through the interception of air
traffic control communications. Manifests of the planes’ cargo have
listed “agricultural equipment” and “flowers.”
As recently as Wednesday, the U.S. monitored a cargo flight from Iran
to Syria via Iraq’s airspace that Iraqi authorities failed to stop
and inspect, despite Baghdad’s promise to do so, the official said.
“The point that we’re making to Iraq is to ensure that it is not
aiding and abetting in any way a violation of U.N. Security Council
Resolution 1747 … nor that it is helping to arm the Syrian regime,
given the positions that … Iraq itself has supported in the Arab
League,” Ms. Nuland said.
The U.N. resolution bans arms exports from Iran.
The Arab League, which has accused Syrian President Bashar Assad’s
regime of crimes against humanity, is scheduled to hold a summit in
Baghdad on March 29. (© 2012 The Washington Times, LLC. 03/18/12)
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