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Iraqi PM in Washington to discuss Syrian crisis and security

February 3, 2014 at 10:52 am

Iraq’s Prime Minister is in Washington for meetings with the administration about the crisis in Syria and other issues. Having met Vice President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday, Nuri Al-Maliki is set to sit with senior US generals to discuss security and intelligence affairs. He said that the need for additional arms “to fight terrorism” is also on the agenda.

According to the White House, the prime minister is due to meet President Barack Obama on November 2 to discuss bilateral relations and regional issues, at the top of which will be terrorism.

“Terrorism is a phenomenon [that] has become a global scourge that hits everyone’s interests and spreads like wildfire across the region,” said Al-Maliki. He added that the violence in Iraq is attributed to “terrorist organisations” coming from Syria. He will ask the Americans to supply more arms so that Iraq can tackle these groups.

Reuters quoted Iraqi sources as saying that Al-Maliki will present himself to Obama as a potential mediator with Iran and its Syrian ally, President Bashar Al-Assad. “US officials played down the prospect of him playing that role,” Reuters added.

A former Iraqi minister said that the US sees Iraq as a potential balancing influence in the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, members of the US Senate have warned Obama that Al-Maliki could lead his country to another civil war.

Media reports claim that members of the Senate’s Defence and Foreign Affairs committees, Democrats and Republicans, wrote to Obama ahead of Al-Maliki’s visit, warning him of the Iraqi prime minister’s “mismanagement of Iraqi politics” that might “be contributing to the recent surge of violence”.

The senators also warned of Iran’s “malign influence” on the Iraqi government, pointing out that its mistreatment of the Sunni minority in Iraq could push them towards extremism. “These were the same conditions that drove Iraq towards civil war during the last decade and we fear that that fate could befall Iraq once again,” they said.