Via Josh Rogin and Eli Lake in August 2013:
Obama Administration Pushes for Apache Helicopter Sale to Iraq
In a visit to Washington this week, Iraq’s top diplomat will press for U.S. Apache helicopters, which his government says it wants to fight terrorism. But Congress is against the sale.
When the Iraqi foreign minister arrives in Washington this week, among his top requests will be for the White House to overcome objections in Congress to selling his country advanced Apache helicopters the Iraqis say they need to fight terrorists within their borders.
Iraq’s top diplomat, Hoshyar Zebari, will meet with Secretary of State John Kerryon Aug. 15. Zebari’s trip comes just weeks after a daring and successful military assault on the Abu Ghraib prison resulted in the release of more than 500 suspected extremist militants. The jailbreak reversed years of work to roll up al Qaeda’s leadership in Iraqduring the U.S.-led counterinsurgency campaign known as the surge.
The U.S. government has notified Congress in recent weeks of its intention to sell Iraq $4.7 billion worth of military equipment, but none of those sales include the top item on Iraq’s shopping list, the Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. The House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have refused to allow the sale of the helicopters to date.
“The committee continues to carefully review all proposed arms sales to Iraq in order to ensure that such transfers support U.S. national security interests in the region,” a House Foreign Affairs Committee spokesman told The Daily Beast. Two administration officials confirmed that until the committees sign off, the U.S. government won’t be able to complete the arms deal.
Congress approved on Monday the delivery of six Apache helicopters to Iraq, the first shipment in what will be a $4.8 billion deal to help Baghdad battle an ever-growing insurgency in the country.
A plan by the Defense Department to sell as many as 24 AH-64E Apache helicopters hit a hurdle in recent weeks, as New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, blocked the deal, pending assurances that the Iraqi government would not use the helicopters against civilians. On Monday, Menendez removed his objections, clearing the way for the Pentagon to proceed with the first phase of the transfer, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been battling al-Qaeda-linked fighters in western Anbar province for weeks and has lobbied for more American weapons and intelligence; however, the Apache deal is not likely to impact the fighting in the near future. The Pentagon first plans to lease six Apaches to Iraq, which they will deliver this summer, to allow for Iraqi pilots to be trained on the aircraft. Then the sale of 24 Apaches and as many as 500 Hellfire missiles will take place over the next three years, according to the New York Times.
As for current news, the New York Times reports that Iraqi “army helicopter gunships” were used yesterday against ISIS terrorists while fighting for control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. The gunships and the Iraqi army lost.