US sending Hellfire missiles and drones to Iraq to fight al-Qaeda
The United States is providing Iraq with missiles and surveillance drones to counter attacks by al-Qaeda, according to US and Iraqi officials.
A shipment of 75 Hellfire missiles was sent to Iraq last week and 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones are scheduled to be delivered by March 2014.
“The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming delivery of Scan Eagles are standard (foreign military sales) cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to combat this threat,” a State Department spokeswoman said.
“We remain committed to supporting the government of Iraq in meeting its defense needs in the face of these challenges,” Jennifer Psaki added.
Hellfires are widely used by US forces to target al-Qaeda militants often targeting their hideouts or vehicles.
The weapons deliveries come as the US has been accused of adopting double standards and supporting the same militants in Iraq’s neighbor, Syria.
The US has been supplying weapons to militants in Syria, some of which have ended up in the hands of al-Qaeda-linked groups most notably the notorious al-Nusrah Front.
The US had already promised to deliver 18 F-16 fighter jets to Iraq, with the first delivery to take place in the fall of 2014 and the rest to be shipped over the course of two years.
Al-Qaeda-linked groups are seeking to destabilize Iraq with a growing number of systematic bombings in recent months, according to Iraqi officials.
On December 1, Iraq’s ministries of health and defense said that 948 people, including 852 civilians, 53 police officers and 43 soldiers, had been killed in violent attacks across the country in November.
The figures make November one of the deadliest months in 2013, with civilians accounting for about 90 percent of the fatalities.
The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have lost their lives in Iraq so far this year.
Iraq’s Interior Ministry has said that militants have launched an open war in Iraq and they want to push the Middle Eastern country into chaos.