Al-Dabbagh said the postponement would not affect the departure of American troops scheduled for the end of this year. Iraq relies on American planes and drones to patrol and protect its skies, and the country’s head of armed forces has said Iraq will not be ready to protect its own airspace until 2020.
An American military spokesman said the U.S. realizes that Iraq has to make tough budget decisions.
“The purchase of F-16s is one of many budget decisions they must make,” said Col. Barry Johnson. “Any impact a decision to postpone the purchase of F-16s may have is just one of many factors the Iraqi government will have to weigh in considering its future security agreements.”
Iraq has been rattled by protests in Tunisia and Egypt that have toppled governments there. In small-scale protests across Iraq, demonstrators have vented their anger at the Iraqi government, which they say is corrupt and demanded improved government services and more jobs.
“We want reforms to take place,” said Hanaa Adwar, an activist from the nonprofit watchdog group, al-Amal. “We have witnessed the popular revolution carried by Tunisian and Egyptian people that led to the toppling of their regime.”
Many of the demonstrators carried banners that bore the image of a broken red heart, alluding to the fact that the protest took place on Valentine’s Day. They shouted slogans saying Iraq’s oil wealth should go to the people but goes to thieves instead.
“Government, you should take lessons from Egypt and Tunisia,” demonstrators shouted as they walked through downtown.
On Sunday, al-Maliki met with government officials to discuss problems facing Iraqis, specifically the electricity shortage and the food rations, and vowed to address the problems.
(Source: Associated Press)