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Iraq to Buy Hellfire Missiles, ScanEagle Drones

The U.S. is sending more missiles and unarmed drones to Iraq to help the government there fight an increasingly deadly insurgency.

The Shiite-led government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has already received 75 AGM-114 Hellfire air-to-ground missiles made by Lockheed Martin Corp. and will soon get 10 ScanEagle reconnaissance drones made by Boeing Co.'s Insitu unit, according to a Dec. 25 article in The New York Times by Michael Gordon and Eric Schmitt.

The missiles, which cost about $70,000 apiece, will be outfitted onto small Cessna-like turboprop planes and fired at militants using targeting information supplied by the C.I.A., according to the report. The drones, which cost about $100,000 apiece, are small, low-altitude craft that can be launched from a catapult.

The delivery comes amid rising violence in Iraq. On Christmas day alone, bombings killed more than two dozen people in mostly Christian areas of Baghdad. The attacks are believed to be the work of al Qaeda-linked Sunni extremists.

In October, Maliki visited President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., to plead for more assistance in combating the insurgency. The trip came almost two years after the last American combat troops left Iraq.

Maliki, who rejected the idea of keeping more U.S. troops in the country after 2011, didn't request an additional American military presence but presumably stressed the need for armed drones and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters.

The U.S. since 2005 has offered Iraq some $35 billion in weapons and services, though only about $8 billion of that involve deals implemented or approved by the U.S. government, according to research by William Hartung, an author and director at the Center for International Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization.

Some of the high-profile sales include more traditional military weapons and equipment, such as 140 M1 Abrams tanks, 18 F-16 fighter jets (with a pending order for another 18 of the aircraft), six C-130 cargo planes, and other aircraft and combat vehicles, according to Hartung. The country has also requested a $2.4 billion integrated air defense system.

To combat the insurgency, the Obama administration has given Iraq a few Aerostats and reconnaissance helicopters, but a deal for Apaches stalled in the Senate, so Iraq has purchased some Mi-35 attack helicopters from Russia, and may eventually buy another two dozen of the Russian choppers, according to The New York Times.

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