Nouri al-Maliki asks Obama for more help as al Qaeda activity rises

Photo: The White House via Flickr

WASHINGTON (WJLA) - You may have noticed heightened security in downtown Washington this week due to the Iraqi Prime Minister's visit.

During an Oval Office visit Friday afternoon, Nouri al-Maliki appealed to President Obama for more U.S. assistance to beat back the violent and increasing insurgency in his country. The meeting lasted about two hours.

It was their first meeting since December 2011, six days before the last American troops left Iraq.

The White House says the two leaders discussed ways they can work together to target al Qaeda in Iraq. However, Obama stopped short of announcing any new commitments of assistance that Baghdad was seeking.

After an unpopular war that has already cost the lives of nearly 4,500 American troops and more than $700 billion, it's unclear whether the White House will grant al-Maliki's request for additional weapons, intelligence and other aid.

Meanwhile, protesters gathered outside the White House demanding accountability from Iraq. They say before President Obama considers any assistance, the Iraqi Prime Minister must provide answers and action.

They point to the deaths of 52 Iranian dissidents in a refugee camp in Iraq. Among those killed was the younger brother of California resident Afzal Afzalnia.

“Make the people who did this massacre accountable and bring them to justice. That's all we want,” said Afzalnia.

The protesters also accuse Iraqi security forces of taking seven hostages in the attack. Their claims are featured in a new television commercial, calling on President Obama to intervene.

Baghdad denies involvement and vows to investigate the incident, but a bi-partisan coalition of former U.S. lawmakers at the protest said common sense suggests otherwise.

Former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) said, “Nouri al-Maliki is taking the page out of the old playbook just to try to kill your opponents rather than in a political process bring them in.”

Former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, “I think [al-Maliki is] more afraid of the Iranians than he is of us.”

“Our message is simple,” added former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. “Release the seven hostages, and we know you have them. And then we'll talk arms, then we'll talk aid.”

But the prime minister says the security situation in his country is urgent. The U.N. reports violence across Iraq killed nearly 1,000 people in October in car bombings, shootings and other attacks.

At an appearance in Washington during his visit, Al-Maliki said, “The situation is deteriorating because al Qaeda and its organizations are back and those supporting it are back. So this is leading to war.”