By Debbie Gregory.
A plan is moving forward to sell 24 Apache AH-64E helicopters to the government of Iraq. The deal, worth more than $6 billion, will include spare parts, maintenance and training on how to fly and operate the helicopters. The maintenance and training aspects of the deal will require a handful of Americans to deploy to Iraq.
This deal is just one of a string of transactions that the U.S. government has recently negotiated with the Iraqi government, led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. Previous deals includes sending 75 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles and approximately 100-200 U.S. troops as part of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq (OSC-I). Another deal will involve sending Iraq another 100 Hellfire Missiles, as well as 10 ScanEagle Unmanned Arial Vehicles (also known as UAVs or drones). This sale will put the total invoice of U.S. arms to Iraq above the $20 billion mark.
The sale of arms to Iraq is the U.S. government’s way of assisting Iraq’s government, without sending U.S. forces to fight for them. The Shia-led Iraqi government has been struggling with the Sunni militant group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which has ties to Al Qaeda in both Iraq and Syria.
ISIL has been leading a separatist revolt in Iraq’s Anbar province, a primarily Sunni populated region of the country. Last year, ISIL managed to overtake the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. Iraqi government forces are still struggling to completely clear Ramadi of militants before focusing on Fallujah.
On January 3rd of this year, ISIL declared Fallujah to be an independent Islamic state. The popular belief is that ISIL isn’t the only militant group that is fighting the Iraqi government’s forces in Fallujah. Several Sunni militias opposed to the current government of Iraq are fighting against government forces, and among each other.
In November, 2013, Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki asked the U.S. to help his government take back their cities. The U.S. has vowed to come to the aid of Iraq. However, lawmakers are reluctant to send ground forces back into Iraq. So instead, we’re selling them arms.