Pelosi wants US to strengthen intelligence in Iraq

Iraqi PM asks visiting House speaker for help fending off demands for reparations dating back to Saddam Hussein's regime.

Iraqi security forces  248.88 (photo credit: AP)
Iraqi security forces 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Iraqi officials on a visit to Baghdad Sunday that America will need to improve its intelligence in Iraq after troops pull out. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked the powerful California Democrat for help with fending off demands from Iraq's neighbors for reparations dating back to Saddam Hussein's regime. "If we are going to have a diminished physical military presence, we are have to have a strong intelligence presence," Pelosi said, following discussions with her Iraqi counterpart and other members of parliament. Pelosi, a strong critic of the US-led war, said they also discussed the implementation of the various agreements governing the presence of American troops and their eventual withdrawal. "We are aware that there are problems, but both the Iraqi government and parliament are trying to make use of the partnership between us and the United States in order to solve problems," said Iraqi parliamentary speaker Ayad al-Samarraie. A fierce critic of the US-led Iraq war, Pelosi originally opposed the 2007 increase in US troops credited with contributing to a substantial reduction of violence in much of country in the past two years. She has praised President Barack Obama's plans to bring home two-thirds of the 130,000 US troops in Iraq by August 2010. In the past, Pelosi has pushed the Iraqi government to make greater efforts at political reconciliation. She last visited Iraq in May 2008, when she also met with al-Maliki, and came in January 2007, shortly after Democrats took control of Congress. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said that the prime minister did not discuss military affairs with Pelosi during their meeting, but rather focused on economic relations - as well as the issue of reparations. "Al-Maliki requested the United States protect Iraqi funds and put an end to the demands of other countries which feel they were harmed during the two Gulf wars of the former regime," he added. Kuwait still claims billions of dollars in war reparations from Iraq dating from the 1990 invasion and has refused appeals by Baghdad to reduce their demands and forgive about $15 billion in Iraqi debt. Also Sunday, Iraqi police announced the arrest of trade minister's brother, who was wanted along with several other officials for allegedly embezzling some $7 million from the country's ration program. Sabah al-Sudani was caught by police Wednesday in southern Iraq carrying large amounts of cash and two passports, in what the government is describing as an attempt to flee the country. When the security forces first tried to arrest him and other suspects on April 29 in Baghdad, guards at the Trade Ministry opened fire, allowing them to escape. The incident was embarrassing for the government, which has been begun responding to the rising public outcry against corruption. Al-Maliki called Saturday for a new campaign against corruption. Corruption watchdog Transparency International rated Iraq in 2008 as the third most corrupt country in the world after Somalia and Myanmar. But the Iraqi government has long downplayed the corruption riddling the country's ministries and hamstringing its reconstruction efforts after years of war.