- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The U.S. is poised to sell 24 Apache attack helicopters to Iraq to help the government battle its rebel faction, Pentagon officials told Congress on Monday.

The deal is worth $4.8 million, Agence France-Presse reported.

It comes on the heels of intense lobbying from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s top officials, who say the weapons are needed to fight off al Qaeda groups in the Anbar province. The Iraqi leader also wants Washington to provide intelligence to help stave off anti-government uprisings, AFP said.

The Pentagon said that the Apache sale would include 480 Hellfire missiles, and a range of radar and navigation systems.

Congress has 15 days to object to the sale — which wouldn’t be the first U.S.-Iraqi arms deal, AFP said. Earlier this month, the United States announced a plan to ship thousands of M-16 and M-4 assault rifles and accompanying ammunition to help Iraq’s government withstand a militant uprising in the west of the country. U.S. officials have also suggested American forces could help train Iraq’s military, perhaps in a third country.

Some on Capitol Hill oppose the sale of weapons to Baghdad, worrying that the country might let Iran cross into its airspace to help the Syrian regime — and funnel weapons and supplies to President Bashar Assad’s forces.

But Pentagon officials say the latest proposed sale is a mutual benefit for Iraq and America. The Pentagon’s also forged another deal with Iraq — the lease of six Apache helicopters, as a means of training the Iraqi pilots, AFP reported. That deal is work $1.37 billion, the media outlet reported.

“This proposed sale supports the strategic interests of the United States by providing Iraq with a critical capability to protect itself from terrorist and conventional threats, to enhance the protection of key oil infrastructure and platforms and to reinforce Iraqi sovereignty,” members of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign arms sales, said in the AFP report.

• Cheryl K. Chumley can be reached at cchumley@washingtontimes.com.

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