WASHINGTON (New York Times)— A powerful Senate Democrat signaled Wednesday that he might allow the transfer of AH-64 Apache helicopters to Iraq as the government in Baghdad struggles to recapture key territory seized by Islamic extremists in the western part of the country.
The senator, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has blocked the lease and sale of the powerful attack helicopters for months while seeking assurances that Iraq would not use them to attack civilians and that the government in Baghdad would take steps to stop Iran from using Iraqi airspace to ship arms to Syria’s military.
Mr. Menendez received a three-page letter last week from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki of Iraq responding to his concerns and received an urgent call from the State Department on Tuesday promising a further response. Although committee officials said the answers so far do not go much further than Mr. Maliki or the administration have in the past, Mr. Menendez was convinced that they are serious about dealing with the concerns given the latest strife in Anbar Province.
“The administration is now addressing concerns first raised in July that required responses before this sale could proceed,” said Adam Sharon, the senator’s spokesman. “Provided these issues are sufficiently addressed, Chairman Menendez will be ready to move forward.”