Lawmakers slam Iraqi government for allowing Iranian aid to Syria's Assad

The top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Middle East panel is gathering signatures on a letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki warning him of their “serious concern” that he is allowing Iranian weapons to transit through his country on their way to the Syrian regime.

The letter, from Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.) and his colleague Tom CottonTom CottonCotton not ruling out 2020 White House bid GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election GOP chairman demands number of immigrants granted accidental citizenship MORE (R-Ark.), is expected to be sent Friday. It comes amid reports that Iraq is allowing both Iranian civilian aircraft packed with weapons and military personnel as well as trucks to transit through its territory.

“It is no secret that Iranian weapons, training, and monetary support have been significantly aiding Assad’s efforts. But we are extremely troubled by continuing reports indicating that Iranian arms have been flowing to Syria via Iraqi airspace,” they write in a Dear Colleague letter. “[As U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford has said], 'We need all the pressure we can get on the Iraqis'. To that end, please join us in sending the letter below to Prime Minister Maliki urging him to immediately begin grounding and inspecting Iranian planes attempting to access Iraqi airspace.”

The reports of Iraqi collusion with the weapons transfers have angered the administration and top lawmakers.

“Iran and Hezbollah are massively stepping up their support of the Assad regime, providing a lifeline of weapons, providing fighters on the ground,” House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said Wednesday at a hearing on the administration's next steps. “Much of this weaponry, by the way, flows through Iraq, and that can't continue without consequences.”

The Obama administration has warned Maliki multiple times, Ford told Royce.

“We have raised the issue on multiple occasions with Iraqi officials, and I have done so myself when I visited Baghdad at the end of last year. We had a senior Iraqi official here in Washington very recently, two weeks ago, and we raised it during visits here in Washington and as well as out in Baghdad. And we will keep pressing the Iraqis,” he testified. “We want the Iraqi government to understand that it has no interest in having an extremist government in Syria, and the longer the conflict continues, the greater the influence of extremists on the ground. And so Iraq should be working with us to get to that negotiated settlement that I talked about.”

Here is the letter: 

Dear Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki,

We write to express our serious concern over reports that Iranian flights continue to use Iraqi airspace to transport weapons to Assad’s forces in Syria. We are increasingly troubled over recent reports that in addition to the Iranian’s use of civilian aircraft to transport military personnel and weapons caches to Syria over Iraq, truckloads of weapons are also making their way via overland routes to Syria through Iraq.

Last year, U.S. officials urged your government to ground and inspect Iranian flights attempting to access Iraqi airspace; yet it appears that after only a short period of compliance, these flights have resumed.

We are greatly disturbed that as the international community works to bring peace to Syria, the Iraqi government is not doing everything in its power to prevent the slaughter of thousands of innocent civilians.

The situation in Syria is growing more and more dangerous by the day. Over 70,000 Syrians have now lost their lives in the two years since the uprising began. This exceedingly deadly conflict threatens to destabilize the entire region, as over one million refugees have crossed Syria’s borders into Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. We understand Iraq is now sheltering over 115,000 Syrian refugees.

Bashar al-Assad continues to show no willingness to put an end to the violence and seek a negotiated peace. It has been well documented that Assad’s forces are receiving money, weapons and training from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Many reports have indicated that Iranian forces are fighting on the ground in Syria alongside Hezbollah militants. The transfer of Iranian arms to Syria is a direct violation of the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, specifically, the ban on Iranian arms exports contained in UN Security Council Resolution 1747.

This violence must end. We strongly urge your government to ground and inspect every Iranian flight through Iraq’s airspace and to put an immediate end to overland weapons shipments through Iraq.


Members of Congress