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.

ADVERTISEMENT
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.”

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter: @TheHillGlobal and @JPecquetTheHill