On October 9, 2012, Moscow confirmed to signing more than $4.2 billion (Dh15.42 billion) in arms deals with Baghdad during the second half of the year to make it the nation’s largest weapons supplier after the US. The deal includes 28 training jets, 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems that can also be used to defend against enemy’s attacking jets. The contracts were signed during Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki’s visit to Moscow earlier this week.
It seems, Russia is trying to push out the United States and Britain as the ‘merchants of death’ in the Muslim East. It has already courted Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon to buy Russian military hardware. Russia has cooperated with Iran in nuclear and other energy fields but refused to deliver S-300 air defense system under the US-Israeli pressure. Iran has sued Russia for backing-down from the contract. However, Iran is in the process of producing its own air defense system, ‘Bavar (Belief) 373′, which is claimed to be more advanced than Russian S-300.
Gamal Nasser, Saddam Hussein, Hafiz Assasd and Ali Abdullah Saleh had been USSR loyal clients in the past. However, after the demise of USSR in the early 1990s – Syria is the only Arab country which buys Russian arms and have a Russian naval base at Tartus.
Al-Maliki went to Moscow despite objections from the US State Department and National Security Council. His visit and signing arms contracts has irked the Jewish lobby groups and Israel. Al-Maliki has always been pro-American but lately he has been showing his independence by courting Tehran and Moscow.
Some Middle Eastern political analyst believe that Iraq-Russian deal was a slap on the US and Turkey faces for taking Al-Maliki for granted. They ignored his warnings not to patronize the pro-Israel northern Kurdistan regime. Both Obama and Erdogan has criticized Al-Maliki for defending Bashar al-Assad regime. The Russian deal is expected to help Al-Maliki rebuild country’s armed forces to defend against territorial violations by Turkey or Israel.
The State Department Jewish spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland’s, reaction to the deal was cautious. “The Russian deal doesn’t signify any scaling down of Iraq’s mil-to-mil ties with the US, which are very broad and very deep“. She also revealed that the US is doing a $12 billion worth of military business with Iraq.
However, we have to wait to see her reaction to the coming visit of Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Baghdad. The commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Navy, Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi is in Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi Navy to discuss defense cooperation. The Iranian Defense Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, recently traveled to Iraq and met a number of Iraqi officials, including Acting Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi, with whom he signed a defense cooperation agreement.