The Iraqi government has just purchased a large order of Russian T-90 tanks but is now eyeballing their S-400 air defense missile systems as well. The Foreign Minister for Iraq, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who made a recent trip to Russia stated, “The issue is being studied in every detail. All necessary decisions aimed at strengthening Iraq will be made after that.”
Member of the Iraqi Parliament’s defense committee Hakim Al-Zamili said, “Iraq has the right to own cutting-edge weapons to defend its territory and air space from air attacks. Terrorism targets our country abundant in places sacred for every Iraqi. There are signs and warnings that extremists might use aircraft for attacks on those shrines, which cause lots of worries and anxiety in the country, as it was after an attack on Samarra’s holy places,” and, “So Iraq intends to possess such a system as S-400 to defend the land, shrines and air space. We are serious about it.”
Zamili was referencing a bombing perpetuated by al-Qaeda in 2006 on a mosque in Samarra that many have said is the cause of an on going civil war between Sunni and Shiite factions. He continued to state that even as a “developed country”, the United States suffered the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Haider Mansour Hadi, Iraq’s ambassador to Russia said, “There is no delegation in Moscow now to purchase S-400. When the Iraqi government decides to buy S-400, of course, this will be announced, and the issue will be discussed by the two countries.”
Author of the Musings of Iraq blog, told local Iraqi media, “There are elements of the Iraqi military that want to buy all kinds of new equipment to make Iraq a modern military force. When the US was rebuilding the Iraqi military it didn’t provide a lot of that equipment because it didn’t want Baghdad to threaten its neighbors again and the insurgency was a much bigger priority. There are also some that argue because Iraq has been so weak, including on the military side, its neighbors were able to constantly interfere in its internal affairs since 2003 because there are no consequences. As for the S-400 it could be used against any of its neighbors’ air forces, but also might have an anti-drone/UAV capability, even though it wasn’t obviously built for that.” The S-400, for Iraq, would be the most up to date air defense the country has seen since the French made KARI was used by Saddam during the first Gulf War.
Iraq’s preference of Russian made military equipment is becoming rather apparent. It’s squadron of military helicopters consists entirely of Russian made helicopters while it’s air force employs U.S. made F-16 fighter jets. The United States sold the planes to Iraq under the strict guidelines that they were not allowed to use them on targets inside the cities of Iraq or Kurdistan region. This kind of limitations are seldom attached to the receipt on Russian arms sales.
Analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, Timur Akhmetov, told Iraqi media, “I am not sure if Iraq really needs an air defense system so badly. Possibly, statements are coordinated with the Russian side which seeks to counter US sanctions, especially their effects on prospective Russian arms buyers in the informational sphere. The US hasn’t resorted to real actions and is now only using rhetoric to dissuade buyers from dealing with Russia through threats of sanctions against prospective deals. Iraq through such ‘talks about talks’ may seek to pressure the US and Russia seems OK to participate in this. It is a good advertisement for Russian-made arms systems in the region but now it is just talk.”
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