Kerry presses Iraq to ban Iran’s shipments to Syria
March 24th, 2013
10:18 AM ET
5 years ago

Kerry presses Iraq to ban Iran’s shipments to Syria

(CNN) – Secretary of State John Kerry said Sunday in Baghdad that he had pressed Iraq's leaders to take steps prohibiting Iranian planes from delivering arms to Syria's besieged government, which is battling rebels backed by financial support from the United States.

Iranian planes must fly through Iraq's airspace in order to reach Syria with deliveries of weapons and supplies. The flights are occurring almost daily, according to a senior State Department official accompanying Kerry on his stop in Baghdad.

“Anything that supports President Assad is problematic,” Kerry told reporters, referring to Syria’s leader. “And I made it very clear to the prime minister that the overflights from Iran are, in fact, helping to sustain President Assad and his regime.”

Kerry's previously unannounced visit to Iraq came after he joined President Barack Obama on a trip to Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan. This week marked the ten-year anniversary of the beginning of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and the first time since 2009 that a U.S. secretary of state has been in the country. Obama last went to Iraq in April 2009.

Speaking to reporters in Baghdad, Kerry described his meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as “spirited,” and added that allowing the Iranian flights through Iraq belied the “common goals” shared by Iraq and the United States.

Last fall, Kerry's predecessor at the State Department, Hillary Clinton, called on Iraq to take steps to prevent Iran from using its land and airspace to deliver shipments to Syria. At the time, Iraq agreed to conduct random inspections of Iranian planes bound for Syria.

Iraq's foreign minister said at the time the country faced a difficult task in enforcing the inspections.

"We explained to the U.S. side that Iraq's air defense capabilities are limited, and we are in the stage of building our air force," Hoshyar Zebari said in a newspaper interview.

Iranian flights over Iraq to Syria began in March 2012 but were stopped shortly after, at the request of Iraq, Zebari said. The flights resumed in July.

The State Department official said al-Maliki would be offered a "theoretical seat at the table" in determining the political future of Syria if he agrees to halt the Iranian flights in Iraq's airspace.

Syrian rebels have been fighting to oust al-Assad for more than two years in a conflict that's claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced more than a million people. Earlier this month, Western counterterrorism officials and analysts told CNN that Sunni jihadist groups were growing in strength along the Syria-Iraq border.

The groups could post a challenge to both the al-Assad government in Damascus and the Shiite-led government of Iraq.

Scores of people were killed and wounded earlier this week on the same day Iraq marked the ten-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.

The attacks - 17 car bombs, seven roadside bombs, and two shootings - ripped mostly through Shiite neighborhoods of Baghdad, but also struck Sunni communities in other towns. At least 187 people were wounded.

The deteriorating security situation prompted authorities to postpone Provincial Council elections scheduled for April in the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh - a decision the State Department official said on Sunday was done without the input of Sunnis or Kurds.

Kerry pushed al-Maliki to reconsider his decision to delay those votes during their meeting Sunday.

"Everyone needs to vote simultaneously,” Kerry said, adding: "No country knows more about voting under difficult circumstances better than Iraq."

Filed under: Iraq • John Kerry • Syria
soundoff (46 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    That isn't likely to happen.

    March 24, 2013 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  2. ug

    How about we stay out of it...

    March 24, 2013 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  3. Brad

    sounds like we shouldn't have let Iraq have control over their own country. We liberate them, then they turn on us

    March 24, 2013 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  4. Jordan Davis

    How long do you think that the president is going to help congress out with the unemployment rate budget cuts?

    March 24, 2013 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  5. Jordan Davis

    Is republican John boehner really going to work together with both congress and the GOP house of republicans to end the unemployment rate budget spending cuts? How many times did they not do it?

    March 24, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  6. Adam

    It's almost ike Iraq needs a strongman who is hostile to Iran to supports and counters Shia influence in the region.

    March 24, 2013 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  7. Mark


    It's almost ike Iraq needs a strongman who is hostile to Iran to supports and counters Shia influence in the region.

    They had that in Saddam. But political winds change and the US soured on Saddam. There is the law of unintended consequences at play. I wonder if the White House (both Dem and Repub) really consider the long term political blow back of conflicts. However nasty Saddam was, he was still a counter balance to Iran. Now there is this enormous void resulting in regional instability. Then again we were told iraqi's would be dancing in the streets and love the liberators – it has not exactly gone that way.

    March 24, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  8. ted

    just wait, John McCain and other GOP war hawks will sponsor a bill for us to put fighters in Iraq to patrol the sky. That kind of thing coalesces the GOP faster than anything. chest thumping can already be heard and also comments like deficits dont matter from Cheney like people can be heard. but they will have to figure which rich guy tax loopholes to eliminate or taxes to put on to make it all revenue/expense neutral. just wait.

    March 24, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  9. parker

    So W goes into Iraq 10 years ago, for no good reason, starts a war, takes over the country, kills lots of people, and now, after he botched it, the Iranians are flying over Iraq. What kind of moron did you people elect for two terms? Iran jets flying over Iraq? W did nothing if not speed up the next 'world war' with everyone attacking the USA. Meanwhile, instead of being on trial for war crimes with Rumsfeld and Cheney, he is shooting rattlesnakes in Texas with his AK47.

    March 24, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  10. JDavis

    It's almost ike Iraq needs a strongman who is hostile to Iran to supports and counters Shia influence in the region.

    Exactly right, Adam. Two trillion dollars to make a friend for Iran, and yet Bush is allowed to run around free and paint naked pictures of himself. He should be at hard labor in a federal pen for such a blunder. Or swinging by his heels from a lamppost, like El Duce.

    March 24, 2013 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  11. Sefer

    It's time to stop with imperialism. World is full of dictatorships, why only one's that are not OK for west are being targeted? This hypocracy is disgusting. Wht not oust Saudis, who are beheading people on parking lots?

    March 24, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  12. Charles

    Ok. I know how much fuel one of these planes use. Seriously? One of our largest cargo planes to transport one person and his contingent of minions? Maybe we should just let the country that he is visiting take care of his security much the same way the that our government did when they let the Lybian government take care of our embassy security where our people were needlessly.

    I think it is time for our country to evaluate who and what our tax money is spent on when it comes to trips like this. For instance, let the media take care of their own transportation expenses. Use existing American security forces locally whenever possible. Fly our politicians and dignitaries in smaller aircraft with American military air support from the region that they are visiting.

    March 24, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. SAFI

    any USA government democrat or republican first priority is killing muslems and destroying any muslem country.....WHY please tell me... from Palestine to iraq, lebanon, tunis lybia, egypt, algeria, sudan, yemen,AFganistan, Bakistan and the list will never end....I have one explanation secure petrol shipments, and selling weapons but it is American peopletax money.....look any country has disturbances is muslems get killed and behind it USA

    March 24, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  14. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Since its unconstitutional to take assault weapons out of the hands of criminals in America,perhaps its also unconstitutional and illegal to take assault weapons out of the hands of the Syrians and Iranians. Its seems more important for the right wingers in America to arm baby killers than it is to take guns out of their hands.

    March 24, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  15. Blah blah the wheel's off your trailer

    Thanks to GWB and the war mongering GOP, al Qaeda and Iran now have a safe haven in war torn Iraq to fuel and expand their global terrorism network and aid rogue states.

    March 24, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  16. johnsullivanmusic

    Man we need to end all of this, bring everyone home and save money!

    March 24, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  17. sergio

    I guess we have to thank the Bush/Chaney Iraq invasion, not only for the loss of over 4400 service man/woman killed in Iraq and the thousands of forever wounded, Iran was released from the “containment cage”, and is today more prominent with the ability to export weapons to terrorists groups around the globe, and develop their nuclear ambition, Bush and Chaney should be locked in Guantanamo Bay Cuba…

    March 24, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  18. Mike

    What a sad country! The tyrannical regime in Iran has blocked all the video chat communications, such as Skype, google talk, oovoo..., so I cannot see my love anymore!

    Iranian regime is the enemy of freedom of thoughts, freedom of religion and secularism.
    I am happy about the sanctions, and putting more and more pressure on Iran. If countries such as China and Russia stop supporting Iran, the regime will go down very soon.

    March 24, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. Subsonic Speciman

    Ain't too impressed with Kerry, however; that is one impressive piece of military hardware he's standing in front of. Probably cost a pretty penny. How many people's lives could have been enriched with clean housing, meals and educational material if the money spent on this gray politicians taxi, could have been properly appropriated to something other than military use? But wait, that's not the proper American response. Oh yea, now it's sinking in. Might Makes Right. That's it.

    March 24, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  20. Nothing At All

    We dug a hole in Iraq and never stopped digging.

    March 24, 2013 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. Xi Gua

    Iran is Shiite ruled. Iraq is Shiite rule. They do what they do, ain't no one's business.

    March 24, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  22. EatYouAlive

    Beside the word Irony in the dictionary, is the map of Iraq.

    To far into it now. The realization that nation-building is the last thing these countries want was too late in coming...

    March 24, 2013 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  23. Jonathan

    From reading this you would think Kerry simply has no idea about the middle east and it's politics. I wish I knew what he really thinks. I can't think why Iraq (and Jordan and Israel) and the Kurds, not prefer Assad and he's preservation in power. Even better when he's weakened. As if a Shiite Iraqi government want Syria to become a base for extreme Sunni Muslims.

    March 24, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  24. marctheduck

    I think we may be entering the endgame with Iran here. Obama goes Israel and everyone looks in accord and happy. Even Turkey and Israel suddenly patch up their differences over the Israel attack of a Turkish ship with Palestinian helpers... Netanyahu apologizing to Turkey. How likely is all of that to happen in one week? Only if there are some back room things underway that call for unusual levels of cooperation. Now Kerry going to Iraq to address Iranian overflights. Looks to me like all the lose ends are getting tied up to prepare the battle area now. Also the statements from Ariel Sharon about the US having Israels back and doing the right thing. There is a lot of solidarity massing it seems.

    March 24, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  25. Robert

    Stay ou of these people's affairs and deal with our own !

    March 24, 2013 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
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