The United States on Wednesday urged Iraq to
ensure that Iranian planes flying over its territory land and
face cargo inspections, amid concerns Tehran is shipping arms to
the Syrian regime.
"We expect Iraq as a member of good standing in the
international community, as a strategic partner of the United
States, to meet its international obligations," acting State
Department deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell said.
"The easiest way we think is for them to require these aircraft
to land and be inspected in Iraqi territory," he said, adding
that Baghdad had full control of its airspace since US troops
withdrew in December.
Tehran has told Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki that the
planes flying over Iraqi airspace were carrying humanitarian aid
to Syria, where the opposition has been fighting since last year
to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
But three US lawmakers visiting Baghdad told Maliki that
Washington believes the planes were ferrying military equipment
to the Assad regime.
"The prime minister has said that he had testimony, or promises
from the Iranians that they were just flying humanitarian
assistance, but we believe otherwise," Senator Joe Lieberman
"I think we should present him (Maliki) with... as much evidence
as we can, to show why we believe those Iranian cargo and
commercial planes... are carrying items... that enable Assad to
kill his own people."
Senator John McCain said Maliki had told them that US Vice
President Joe Biden had vowed Washington would give Baghdad
proof of the administration's fears, but no evidence had been
Ventrell refused to be drawn on what evidence the United States
might have to substantiate its allegations, but insisted "the
Iranians have been very clear, and they'll stop at nothing to
continue to support the Syrian regime, and they've been very
open about that."
Under UN Security Council resolutions all states have a
responsibility to "seek to prevent the export of Iranian arms,
moreover... all states need to inspect all cargo to and from
Iran in their territory if they have information that provides
reasonable grounds to believe the cargo contains prohibited
items," he added.
McCain said he believed flights resumed after a July 18 suicide
bombing on a heavily guarded security headquarters in Damascus
killed four top Syrian regime officials, including defense
minister General Daoud Rajha and Assad's brother-in-law, Assef
In March, Baghdad informed Tehran it would not permit arms
shipments to Syria to pass through or over its territory after
Washington said it was concerned about Iranian cargo flights
through Iraqi airspace.
"We think all of (Iran's) destructive assistance should stop
whether it's materiel or whether it's direct training and
assistance to help sort of stage-manage the repression,"