The Obama administration said Tuesday that it will provide Iraq with $200 million in humanitarian assistance, an amount that fell far short of the aid sought by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi during his visit here this week.
President Obama made the offer during an Oval Office meeting with Abadi, saying the funds would help hundreds of thousands if not millions of Iraqis displaced during the fighting against forces from the Islamic State that have captured much of the country.
The Iraqi government has asked the United States to provide heavy weapons, like Apache helicopters, drones and F-16 jet fighters, but when asked by reporters after the meeting Obama would only say that “we are discussing security arrangements.”
The Pentagon had spent $1.9 billion, or $8.5 million a day, on operational costs in Iraq and Syria through March 26, an administration official said later.
Obama praised Iraqi forces, which have — with the help of Shiite militia, U.S. advisers and American air support — recaptured about a quarter of the territory seized by the Islamic State.
But Iraq is also struggling on the financial front from what an International Monetary Fund team in December called the “double shock” of the costs of waging war on the Islamic State and the sharp decline in oil prices. Even though oil production has been climbing, the government — which relies heavily on oil revenues — expects to run a large budget deficit.
“We estimate non-oil growth to have deteriorated since the start of the conflict due to the destruction of infrastructure, impeded access to fuel and electricity, low business confidence and disruption in trade,” the IMF said in December.
Obama said Tuesday that he and Abadi had also discussed “extensively” the role of Iran and Iranian-backed militia in the battle to win back Iraqi territory from the Islamic State.
He said, “we expect Iran to have an important relationship with Iraq as a close neighbor.” But he said that “it is important for all unified forces to be under control” of the Iraqi government and “answerable” to Iraq’s chain of command. He said, “that’s how you respect Iraqi sovereignty.”
Abadi distanced his government from any individual human rights violations that some groups have alleged to have been committed by Shiite militias. Abadi said, “These were criminals and the Iraqi government has arrested few and brought them to justice but by no means it’s an institutional behavior.”
He promised that American blood would not be shed in vain in the battle to liberate Iraq. He thanks Obama for providing weapons, training and air strikes against the Islamic State.