The Washington Post

Obama meets with Iraq’s Maliki, vows ongoing partnership; no public aid commitment made


Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki smiles while shaking hands with President Obama during a meeting in the Oval Office on Friday. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

President Obama assured visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Friday that the United States wants to be a strong partner in bringing about a stable and inclusive Iraq amid a rapid spike in sectarian violence that threatens security across the country.

But following a private meeting in the Oval Office, Obama made no public commitment of military equipment or other assistance that Maliki is seeking. The Iraqi leader says U.S. help is vital to containing the security threat in his country posed by growth in al-Qaeda.

Obama said he urged Maliki to pass an election law so Iraqis can express their differences politically instead of using violence. The United States has been seeking to pressure Maliki to stop his Shiite-led government’s political mistreatment of Sunnis and hold him accountable for a failure to govern inclusively.

Obama also said he wanted to “work together” with Maliki to push back against terrorist groups that endanger not only Iraq but the entire region. “Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has still been active and has grown more active recently,” Obama told reporters.

The meeting came near the end of Maliki’s first visit to Washington in more than two years. He has been lobbying Congress for more security money and to allow the sale of U.S.-manufactured Apache helicopters and other weapons he believes are needed to help stabilize Iraq.

In their brief remarks, neither Obama nor Maliki made any mention of military sales or other assistance to Iraq, although Obama did note that it has been nearly two years since U.S. troops left the country.

Maliki told reporters that he and Obama shared “a common vision” about the rise of terrorism in Iraq and how to fight it.

“We had similar positions and similar ideas,” Maliki said. “We discussed the details of our cooperation, but the people who are in charge will discuss further details about this.”

Following their meeting, the U.S. and Iraqi delegations issued a joint statement saying they agreed on Iraq’s need for additional equipment to contain the violence.

“Both sides emphasized — on an urgent basis — the need for additional equipment for Iraqi forces to conduct ongoing operations in remote areas where terrorist camps are located,” the statement said. “The Iraqi delegation stressed its desire to purchase U.S. equipment as a means of strengthening long-term institutional ties with the United States, and confirmed its commitment to ensure strict compliance with U.S. laws and regulations on the use of such equipment.”

Maliki has said that the civil war in neighboring Syria and homegrown insurgents have fueled the violence across Iraq, including suicide bombings and drive-by shootings. More than 5,300 Iraqis have been killed this year, with the historic Sunni-Shiite split reemerging as the main internal security threat in the country.

On Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers is holding up a possible helicopter sale out of concern that Maliki’s forces could turn the Apaches on domestic political opponents not affiliated with al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups. The lawmakers also accuse Maliki of turning a blind eye to Iranian aircraft flying over Iraq to supply Syrian President Bashar al-Assad with weapons and fighters.

Earlier this week, six leading senators — Democrats Carl Levin (Mich.) and Robert Menendez (N.J.) and Republicans John McCain (Ariz.), James M. Inhofe (Okla.), Bob Corker (Tenn.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) — assailed Maliki’s “mismanagement of Iraqi politics.” They said his government is beholden to Shiite Iran’s “malign influence” and that the country risks tipping back toward civil war.

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Democrats are debating tonight. Get caught up on the race.
What to expect tonight
Tonight's debate is likely to focus on the concerns of African American and Latino voters. Clinton has focused in recent days on issues like gun control, criminal-sentencing reform, and the state of drinking water in Flint, Mich. Sanders has been aggressively moving to appeal to the same voters, combining his core message about economic unfairness with his own calls to reform the criminal-justice system.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
Upcoming debates
Feb. 11: Democratic debate

on PBS, in Wisconsin

Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read

politics

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.