Obama offers Iraq $200M in humanitarian aid

Nedra Pickler
Associated Press

Washington — President Barack Obama pledged $200 million in humanitarian aid to Iraq Tuesday to help those displaced by Islamic State militants, an offer of assistance that appeared to fall short of the Iraqi prime minister’s request for greater military support.

Obama made the financial commitment during an Oval Office meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in the Oval Office.

Speaking to reporters at the end of the meeting, Obama said Iraqi forces are getting better equipped and trained since al-Abadi’s election seven months ago. He also noted Iraq and a U.S.-led coalition have recovered about one-fourth of the territory the Islamic State had captured in the country.

However, Obama said the process of pushing back the militant group will be long and it was crucial for the U.S. to help support families who have been displaced by the militants.

Al-Abadi told reporters Monday that an increase in U.S. airstrikes, weapons deliveries and training has helped roll back Islamic State forces, but he needed greater support from the international coalition to “finish” them. “We want to see more,” he said.

The Iraqi leader made a similar appeal in the Oval Office, saying he hoped for more international cooperation to minimize the crisis in the region.

Obama said the two leaders also discussed Iran’s involvement in the fight against militants in Iraq, a major point of concern for the U.S. Shiite militias believed to be backed by Iran are playing a major role in helping the Iraqi military roll back IS advances in the country.

Obama said that the U.S. expects that Iraq would have close coordination with its majority-Shiite neighbor, Iran. But he said that any foreign assistance must be orchestrated through Iraq’s government and be answerable to Iraq’s chain of command.

“It is very important for us to coordinate our activities going through Iraq,” Obama said.