Amid intense lobbying from President Obama as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has removed its objection to selling 24 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters to Iraq, nominally to fight al-Qaeda.
There’s still objection though, and it comes from Iraq’s political opposition. Iraqiya’s top Sunni politician, Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlaq, has hired a DC lobbyist to specific fight against selling arms to his government.
It’s an odd turn of events, but in keeping with the political realities on the ground in Iraq. Mutlaq is technically the second-highest ranked Sunni in the government, but Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi is living in exile because Maliki accused him of terrorism. Maliki has likewise leveled such allegations against Mutlaq himself, and there were major efforts to keep him from running at all in the last election.
The Senate objections to selling the helicopters centered around concerns that Maliki is persecuting the nation’s Sunni minority, and would be using the weapons he buys against them.
Though the objections have officially been removed, that concern remains very real, and the Maliki government is in the process of shelling the major Sunni city of Fallujah even as the deals are getting reached.
For the Obama Administration, selling arms has always been an end unto itself, but with Maliki showing hostile military intentions against the Sunnis and the Kurds, the sales are setting up Iraq’s next civil wars.