US delivers missiles, ammunition to Iraq
The United States delivered nearly 100 Hellfire missiles, M4 rifles and hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition to Iraq this month, the US embassy in Baghdad said Sunday, AFP reported.
The delivery is part of US efforts to help Iraq combat Sunni militant groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, amid ongoing instability in Sunni Arab areas, particularly western Anbar province where militants have held an entire city for more than two months.
"Earlier this month, the United States delivered nearly 100 Hellfire missiles together with hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition and M4 rifles," the embassy said in a statement.
"It is essential that Iraqi security forces are equipped with modern and effective weaponry given the serious threat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant now poses to Iraq and the region," it said.
The embassy said the US had delivered more than 11 million rounds of ammunition as well as thousands of machine guns and rifles, along with thousands of flares, grenades and other weapons since mid-January.
"Additional deliveries are scheduled in coming weeks," it said in the statement.
Iraq is grappling with its worst prolonged period of violence since it emerged from a bloody sectarian war that left tens of thousands dead in 2006-07.
More than 250 people have already been killed this month, according to an AFP tally, and militants have held control of Fallujah since early January.
Analysts and diplomats have urged the Shiite-led government to reach out to the Sunni community, who allege they are mistreated by the government and security forces.
But with elections looming on April 30, political leaders have been loath to be seen to compromise, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has taken a hard line, focusing on security operations and singling out Saudi Arabia and Qatar, accusing the two Gulf states of backing militant groups and effectively waging war on Iraq.