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Obama's Quiet Gift to Iraq: Hellfire Missiles and Surveillance Drones

Critics warn fresh shipments of weapons will only fuel the country's violence

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

People stand among debris at the site of a bomb attack at a marketplace in Baghdad's Doura District December 25, 2013. (Photo: Reuters / Ahmed Malik)The U.S. is quietly shipping hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to war-torn Iraq in an alleged bid to help the government fight the country's Al Qaeda affiliate.

The shipments, revealed in a New York Times report released Wednesday, follow early November requests from Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to the Obama administration for an influx of weapons and spying technology.

According to The New York Times, Iraq bought 75 Hellfire missiles, which were delivered last week. "The weapons are strapped beneath the wings of small Cessna turboprop planes, and fired at militant camps with the C.I.A. secretly providing targeting assistance," the report states.

Ten surveillance drones will likely be sent to Iraq by March.

"American intelligence and counterterrorism officials say they have effectively mapped the locations and origins of the Qaeda network in Iraq and are sharing this information with the Iraqis," reads the report.

Critics warn that an influx of weapons to the region is fueling the violence that made 2013 the most deadly year since 2008, with over 8,000 killed, according to the United Nations, including a spate of bombings and attacks on Wednesday.

"First of all, what we are seeing shows the war is a failure," said Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy, in a previous interview with Common Dreams. "Secondly, the upsurge in violence in Iraq is directly tied to the arming of basically the same groups in Syria which the U.S. has been collaborating with. This situation is an indictment of not only U.S. policy in Iraq, but also U.S. policy in Syria."

"If this is heeded, it will add to the crimes committed by the US against Iraqis since the invasion of 2003, as weapons and equipment made available to the regime have, to date, been used only against Iraqi people," wrote Haifa Zangana, a Kurdish-Iraqi novelist and former prisoner of Saddam Hussein's regime, in an early November Guardian op-ed arguing against U.S. weapons shipments to Iraq.

She added that the Maliki regime "is the embodiment of the sectarian divide entrenched by the occupation. Its constitution and political process, nurtured by the US and UK, has spawned a kleptocracy of warlords, charlatans, and merchants of religion. Yes, al-Qaida is a presence. But the sectarian political parties that mushroomed after the invasion are also fighting each other, killing thousands of civilians in the process."
 

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