WASHINGTON Dec 26 The United States has
delivered dozens of Hellfire air-to-ground missiles to Iraq in
recent weeks and plans shipments of Scan Eagle drones next year
amid a surge in violence, U.S. officials said on Thursday, a day
after at least 34 people died in Christmas day bomb attacks in
Al Qaeda-linked militants have stepped up attacks on Prime
Minister Nuri al-Maliki's Shi'ite-led government and anyone seen
to be supporting it. The United Nations estimates that more than
8,000 people have been killed in attacks in Iraq this year.
A U.S. official said that about 75 Hellfire missiles were
delivered to Iraq last week, earlier than originally envisioned,
and a shipment of 10 unmanned Scan Eagles surveillance drones is
due next year.
The U.S. has already said the first of 18 F-16 fighter jets
promised to Iraq will be delivered in the fall of 2014, with the
entire order to be shipped over the course of two years.
"The recent delivery of Hellfire missiles and an upcoming
delivery of Scan Eagles are standard (foreign military sales)
cases that we have with Iraq to strengthen their capabilities to
combat this threat," a State Department official said.
"We remain committed to supporting the government of Iraq in
meeting its defense needs in the face of these challenges," the
Iraq is enduring its deadliest violence in years, reviving
memories of the sectarian bloodshed between Sunni and Shi'ite
Muslims that killed tens of thousands of people in 2006-07.
Maliki pressed senior U.S. officials during a visit to
Washington last month to provide Iraqi forces with additional
equipment to conduct operations against militants camped in
Washington has been adamant it will not send troops back to
Iraq but has said it will continue to help train Iraqi forces.
The last U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of 2011 after eight
years of war.