Jan 10, 2014

US closer to sale, lease of Apache helicopters to Iraq

A resurgence of militants in Iraq and the chaos they are creating has gotten Washington’s attention.

Speaker of the House , urged the Obama administration Thursday to re-engage on the matter and emphasized the need to maintain a long-term commitment to securing U.S. interests in that nation.

On Wednesday, a powerful Senate Democrat has signaled that he might allow the transfer of AH-64 Apache helicopters to Iraq as the government in Baghdad struggles to recapture key territory seized by Islamic extremists.

Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has blocked the lease and sale of the powerful attack helicopters for months seeking for assurances that Iraq would not use them to attack civilians, and that the government in Baghdad would take steps to stop Iran from using Iraqi airspace to ship arms to Syria.

The Obama administration has proposed selling up to 30 of the helicopters to the Iraqis, but, because building them could take years, it has also asked to lease up to 10 aircraft in the interim. Administration officials said the Apaches could be useful in targeting fighters affiliated with al Qaida like those who have taken over parts of Fallujah and Ramadi.

The US administration also is planning to ship more Hellfire missiles as early as this spring, 10 ScanEagle surveillance drones in coming weeks and 48 Raven surveillance drones later in the year. Those come on top of Aerostat surveillance balloons provided in September and three additional Bell IA-407 helicopters sent last month.

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