WASHINGTON - 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, US officials said on Thursday, a day after at least 34 people died in Christmas day bomb attacks in Baghdad.
AliQaida-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 US 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 US 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 official added.