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Maliki Meets U.S. Lawmakers

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is in the United States seeking fresh military aid to contend with a spike in violence back home.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has met a group of U.S. lawmakers as he continues his first visit to Washington in two years.

Maliki is in the U.S. capital seeking military aid to deal with a spike in violence, due in part to rising sectarian tensions and the civil war raging across the border in Syria.

The United Nations estimates that more than 7,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq this year. AP says suicide bombers have launched 38 attacks in the last month alone.

After meeting Maliki on October 30, Senator John McCain, said the situation in Iraq is "deteriorating" and that it was up to Maliki to "turn it around."

McCain said Maliki's government would not get the requested military aid until, Maliki, a Shi'a, makes efforts to open his government more to Sunnis.

McCain was one of six Republican and Democratic senators who sent a letter to President Barack Obama on October 29, blaming Maliki's government's actions for Iraq’s rising violence.

In the letter, the senators said Maliki "too often" pursues a sectarian and authoritarian agenda. As a result, they said, Al-Qaeda in Iraq, a Sunni militant group, has been strengthened and violence between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims has been fueled.

The lawmakers are also angered at reports that Iraq has allowed Iran to use its airspace to ship weapons to the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Maliki is due to meet Obama on November 1 at the White House to press for the military aid.

Iraq's ambassador to the United States, Lukman Faily, told AP on October 30 that the fresh assistance could include everything from speeding up the delivery of U.S. aircraft, missiles, interceptors, and other weapons, to improving national intelligence systems.

Faily also did not rule out the possibility of asking the United States to send military special forces or additional CIA advisers to Iraq to help train and assist counterterror troops.

The last U.S. troops left Iraq at the end of 2011, after eight years of war.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters