Kerry presses Iraq to ban Iran’s shipments to Syria
March 24th, 2013
10:18 AM ET
9 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. ALLuh

    Boehner, Cantor and Mitchie are criminal paid KOCHboys and need to be locked up.

    March 24, 2013 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  2. cpc65

    When you remove a brutal dictator, it may seem like the right thing to do, but sometimes he's the only thing keeping the rabble in check. Take him down and they start fighting each other all over again same as they have done for centuries.

    March 24, 2013 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  3. palebluedot

    Go home, Kerry.

    Your words mean nothing so long as you insist on aiding the jihadists in Syria.

    March 24, 2013 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  4. Hadenuffyet

    A threat unchecked is sure to lead to your demise.

    March 24, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  5. palebluedot

    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.

    I'm a lifelong Democrat, but it seems that American arrogance is ubiquitous and institutionalized.

    If you'll abet our international crimes, we'll offer you a seat at the operating table when we carve your neighbor up.

    Kerry offers

    March 24, 2013 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  6. Zoglet

    "now we have free'd you- do as we darn well tell you!"

    March 24, 2013 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  7. JMorcan

    We will never get out of this mess. The US government is determined to spend our nation into abject poverty.

    March 24, 2013 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  8. yawn

    Back in the good ol days when you rolled an inferior territory... you executed the chiefs.. rounded up the women.. and hoisted the flag. Now we sacrifice thousands of our young men to press the "reset" button and hope they don't screw it all up again.

    March 24, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  9. rad666

    Will America ever learn to mind its own business?

    March 24, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  10. Thomas

    @Rick McDaniel
    That isn't likely to happen.

    I'd say your wrong . There will be no more flights from Iran to Syria over Iraqi air space as of 3/27/13 1600 GMT .

    March 24, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  11. yoshimoto

    and this helps America how – hey Kerry boy, go find some cheap oil and do something that helps the US – China is cutting deals all over the world and we're still trying to change the world....

    March 24, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  12. Lord Vader

    Wait a minute.......... Is Kerry actually supporting this move? Or when he is faced with opposition from within his party uring elections does he flip flop like usual? Hint hint.......... 2004 election!

    March 24, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. Roberto

    Does the U.S. always have to get in the middle of everyones business.

    March 24, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. Lord Vader

    BTW, Saddam Hussein had complete control over Iran....... Fact!

    March 24, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. dbdy

    Maliki is just laughing (thumbing his nose) at Kerry while taking money from Iran. Every time a plane flies over Iraq a paper bag filled with money is dropped and shows up on Maliki's door step.

    March 24, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  16. stoptheinsanity

    the majority of humans on the planet would like the war machine to stop. – most of them are paying for it.

    March 24, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  17. grrrrrrrr

    welcome to the New World Order,wicked,greedy,and as their ritual in Bohemian grove goes with CARE

    March 24, 2013 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  18. Byron Ellis

    We have gone from "Shock and Awe" to "shock and (any word will do)." So, the US expect the Shias to fight one another and support their archenemy? It is like asking the US politicians to stop funding Israel's military machine.

    March 24, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. Dennis

    Sefer:Oil,my the reason

    March 24, 2013 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  20. DrEvil

    As a US citizen I request an end to US, British, Turkey, EU, Yemen, and Saudi shipment of arms to Syrian rebels.

    March 24, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  21. frogleg

    Why is USA giving iran more time to do whatever they want? THA'S RIDICULOUS!!!

    March 24, 2013 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
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