The Iraqi government is actively seeking armed drones from the U.S. to combat al Qaeda in its increasingly violent Anbar province and, in a significant reversal, would welcome American military drone operators back into the country to target those militants on its behalf, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Shiite government has for the last several months struggled to stem the violence in Iraq’s western reaches, particularly in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province, site of some of the heaviest and bloodiest fighting of the decade-long Iraq war. Some of the instability in western Iraq is attributed to fighters arriving from Iraq’s war-torn neighbor, Syria.
Iraq has long sought drones for surveillance and reconnaissance purposes and has begun to receive some from the U.S. in limited numbers. But the nature of the fight the Maliki government confronts in western Iraq is such that officials say Baghdad is looking not only for better reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities, but also for more robust, lethal platforms. Iraq has been unwilling to accept American military personnel in the country in any operational form, but the willingness to revisit that policy appears now to be shifting. A spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy declined to comment on the issue of allowing American military personnel into the country to conduct drone operations, but acknowledged that the U.S. and Iraq share a “common enemy” in al Qaeda. […]