Hold on attack helicopters for Iraq will be lifted soon, Senate aide says

Senators are close to approving the provision of attack helicopters to Iraq, as soon as the State Department provides the last “little bit of information” requested, according to a Senate aide.  

“We haven’t signed off yet, [but] the State Department is working to get us those answers in a constructive way,” said the aide, who spoke on background. 

Pressure on the U.S. government to provide Apache attack helicopters has ramped up as Iraq has become increasingly embroiled in sectarian violence and the threat of an al Qaeda resurgence. 

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Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), along with other senators, had blocked the provision of Apache attack helicopters to Iraq in late July, citing concerns that they could be used by the Shia-majority government against minority Sunni populations. 

They had requested assurances that the helicopters, some of which would still be owned by the United States, would not be used against civilians, but had not been given a meaningful response until early January, the aide said. 

“We had our concerns, and now they’re being responded to,” said the aide. 

When finally approved, the deal would include leasing 10 attack helicopters to Iraq this year, and selling as many as 30 more later. 

The leased helicopters would not get to Iraq for at least six to nine months. The helicopters sold to Iraq would need to be built and would not arrive for three years. 

“These helicopters won’t be there tomorrow,” the aide said.