US Providing Iraq with Missiles, Drones

b_250_0_16777215_00_images_obgrabber_2013-12_55e5c12789.jpgMarcio Silva/Thinkstock (WASHINGTON) -- For the first time in two years, the U.S. is assisting Iraq with major military support in an effort to quell the country's rising insurgency. This month, the Obama administration provided Iraqi security forces with 75 air-to-ground Hellfire missiles, it was announced Thursday.  The White House has also promised to deliver surveillance drone aircraft to Iraq next month.

The military hardware comes at the behest of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, which is trying to hang onto power in the run-up to the 2014 general elections.

Violence in Iraq has picked up dramatically since April in the wake of provincial elections and the Shiite government's crackdown on Sunni militant groups.  There were 8,000 civilian deaths in 2013, the most fatalities since the height of the war five years ago.

Observers note that al Qaeda is responsible for inciting much of the fighting and has increased its strength as militants easily cross the border between Iraq and Syria, which is involved in its own internal conflict.

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