Administration slams Congress for denying arms to Iraq

The Obama administration is upping its criticism of a key Senate panel for denying advanced weaponry to Iraq as it battles a resurgent al Qaeda.

“Time and again, the [Senate Foreign Relations panel] has blocked the delivery of this support," a senior administration official told Foreign Policy. “It's hard to imagine why some members think now is a good time to deny the Iraqi government the weapons it needs to effectively take the fight to al Qaeda.”

The panel's chairman, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), has so far opposed the delivery of the weapons, which includes Apache helicopters, because of the Iraqi Shiite-led government's ties to Iran and attacks on Sunnis. He is reportedly reconsidering his stance, however, and his House counterpart, Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), is believed to be OK with the helicopter sales.

The administration's criticism comes as President Obama is taking increasing flak from congressional Republicans for failing to get Iraq to agree to a deal keeping U.S. forces in the country past 2011. Al Qaeda's recent takeover of Fallujah, where the U.S. fought major battles in 2004, has been a source of particular outrage on Capitol Hill.

“After all the blood and treasure, all the sacrifice of the finest among us, it's just a tragedy,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations panel, told The Hill. “I would say it's just sheer incompetence that we didn't leave a residual force there to provide the kind of stability that I think would have prevented this.”

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