U.S. Expediting Shipments of Hellfire Missiles to Iraq

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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WASHINGTON--The U.S. is speeding up shipments of 800 Hellfire missiles to Iraq to help the embattled Baghdad government beat back the threat posed by Sunni militants, the Pentagon said Friday.

In response to the expanding militant attacks in Iraq, the U.S. is planning to deliver 200 Hellfire missiles in the coming weeks and 600 more by the end of July, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

The expedited plans would give a significant boost to Iraq's missile stockpile. The U.S. has sent about 300 Hellfire missiles to Iraq this year.

Confronting militants threatening to take Baghdad, the Iraqi government has also asked the U.S. for several hundred additional Hellfire missiles, along with extra ammunition, grenades, small arms and flares, said Adm. Kirby.

The request comes as the U.S. is stepping up its military involvement in Iraq to help the government counter the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.

Earlier this week, the U.S. started flying armed drones over Baghdad to provide protection for the new U.S. military officials working in the Iraqi capital, Adm. Kirby said. The U.S. has sent several military-assessment teams to Baghdad to see what the U.S. can do to help the Iraqi military defeat ISIS.

The expedited arms shipments come after months of reluctance from the U.S. to provide the Iraqi government with more sophisticated weapons.

During a visit to Washington last fall, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki appealed for more firepower, but the requests met resistance from American leaders, who wanted him to embrace more inclusive policies before the U.S. would provide more weaponry.

The U.S. is also expected to deliver two F-16 fighter jets to the Iraqi military this fall as part of a broader agreement to provide the Mideast government with 36 of the planes.

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires


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  06-27-141625ET
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