France offers Iraq help to counter surge in unrest

Residents look at the site of a bomb attack at a cafe in Baghdad’s al-Bayaa district, Nov. 21, 2013. (Reuters)

France on Monday offered weapons, training and intelligence cooperation to help Iraq combat worsening violence amid fears the country is on the verge of returning to all-out sectarian bloodshed.

The latest pledge comes after Baghdad appealed for international help in dealing with the protracted surge in militancy, with Iraq having already turned to Washington for help, while Turkey also offered assistance.

“We are absolutely willing to help Iraq in its fight against terrorism, in terms of equipment, training, intelligence, and care for the wounded,” French Ambassador to Baghdad Denys Gauer said in a speech marking the visit of a French trade delegation to Iraq.

“This is an additional area in which we are totally open to cooperate with the Iraqi authorities, and to meet their needs.”

Asked after his speech, which he gave at the Rasheed Hotel in Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone, if that help included the sale of weapons, Gauer responded: “Yes, of course.”

Iraq has been hit by a months-long surge in bloodshed, the country’s worst violence since it was emerging from a brutal Sunni-Shiite sectarian war in 2008, that has left more than 5,900 dead, according to an AFP tally based on reports from security and medical officials.

Officials have voiced concern over a resurgent Al-Qaeda emboldened by the civil war in neighboring Syria which has provided the jihadist network’s front groups in Iraq with increased room to plan operations.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki used a recent trip to Washington to appeal for intelligence sharing and the timely delivery of new weapons systems to combat militants.

Turkey has also offered its help on countering militancy.

But diplomats, analysts and human rights groups say the government is not doing enough to address the root causes of the unrest, particularly disquiet among Sunnis over alleged mistreatment at the hands of the Shiite-led authorities.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:42 - GMT 06:42