Iraq Leader to Seek Arms on US Visit

Iraq Leader to Seek Arms on US VisitIraq Leader to Seek Arms on US Visit

Iraq’s prime minister will seek President Barack Obama’s help to acquire billions of dollars in drones and other US arms to fight Islamic State (IS) during a US visit next week but wants to defer payment for the purchases, a senior Iraqi official said, Reuters reported.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is grappling with an insurgency by militants from IS, an al Qaeda offshoot that emerged from the chaos in Iraq and neighboring Syria and seized much of northern and central Iraq last year.

He is also facing a cash crunch thanks to a plunge in oil prices that is ravaging Iraq’s state finances. The government is projecting a budget deficit of roughly $21 billion this year.

Visiting Washington for the first time as prime minister, Abadi hopes to convince a war-weary United States Iraq deserves more US manpower and arms three years after US troops withdrew from the country in December 2011, as his fledgling army confronts IS, also known as ISIS and ISIL.

“ISIS is everybody’s problem now,” said the senior Iraqi official who spoke on condition of anonymity. “You can’t run away from the problem if it comes to Canada or goes to France,” he said in reference to attacks by people influenced by IS or al Qaeda in those countries.

The senior Iraqi official hinted Baghdad could turn to Tehran if it did not get the aid it wants from Washington.

“If that’s not available, we’ve already done it with the Iranians and others,” he said, saying that was not the first choice. “The PM is committed to the US ... What he also wants to make sure is that he has a partner that he can rely on.”

Obama in August authorized the first US air strikes on Iraq since the US withdrawal and has deployed about 3,000 American military forces to help Iraq to battle the group.