Iraq Requests Accelerated Shipment of U.S. Arms to Counter Militants

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Jay Solomon

WASHINGTON--Iraq is requesting the accelerated delivery of pledged U.S. military support, particularly Apache helicopters, F-16 fighters and surveillance equipment, to help Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's government push back radical Islamist fighters who have claimed large sections of western Iraq in recent days.

Iraq's ambassador to the U.S., Lukman Faily, said in an interview Wednesday his government is concerned Washington and other Western governments aren't fully aware of the imminent threat posed by the Islamist militia, called the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, to global security.

"What we are saying is that there needs to be a sense of urgency," Mr. Faily said in Washington. "We now expect the U.S. to appreciate this sense of urgency."

Iraq's government has contracted with U.S. defense contractors for the delivery of 36 F-16 jets made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and dozens of Boeing Co.'s Apache helicopters. But their delivery to Iraq is still seen as months away, and it could take much longer for the Iraqi military to begin using them.

U.S. lawmakers for a time blocked the Apache sales over concerns that Mr. Maliki's government wasn't doing enough to stanch the flow of Iranian arms into Syria. But that block has since been lifted.

"What we need, we should have had yesterday," Mr. Lukman said.

The State Department said this week that its point man on Iraq, Brett McGurk, is currently in Baghdad discussing with government officials what additional military support the U.S. can provide. In recent months, Washington has shipped ammunition, Hellfire missiles and surveillance equipment to the Iraqi military on what officials call an " expedited" basis.

"You can expect that we will provide additional assistance to the Iraqi government to combat the threat from [ISIS] , State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Wednesday. "But I'm not in a position to outline that further at this point."

Mr. Lukman said anything short of assisting Iraq in developing air power might not be enough to stem the tide of ISIS's advances in western Iraq. "Ammunition, Hellfire missiles, surveillance equipment...these are not game-changers," he said. "We need game-changers."

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com

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