First Published: 2012-11-10

 

Iraq cancels mega arms deal with Russia over graft concerns

 

Cancellation of deal, which had been announced last month, is setback for Moscow's attempts to firm up its slipping foothold in Middle East.

 

Middle East Online

By Ammar Karim – BAGHDAD

Russia's biggest deal in six years

Baghdad cancelled a $4.2 billion (3.3 billion euro) weapons package with Russia on Saturday citing graft concerns, torpedoing a deal that would have made Moscow Iraq's biggest arms supplier after the US.

Cancellation of the deal, which had been announced when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki led a delegation to Russia last month, is a setback for Moscow's attempts to firm up its slipping foothold in the Middle East and also throws into doubt efforts by Iraq to equip its armed forces.

"The deal was cancelled," Maliki's spokesman Ali Mussawi said.

"When Maliki returned from his trip to Russia, he had some suspicions of corruption, so he decided to review the whole deal... There is an investigation going on, on this."

Mussawi declined to say who specifically was being investigated, or if Iraq would begin new negotiations with Moscow.

He also did not say exactly when the final decision was made to stop the deal.

The Russian embassy in Baghdad was not available for comment.

Had the deal been finalised and implemented, it would have made Russia Baghdad's second-biggest arms supplier, after the United States.

Russian media said the deliveries covered 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems.

Discussions were also said to be underway for Iraq's eventual acquisition of a large batch of MiG-29 fighters and helicopters, along with heavy weaponry.

The statement announcing the deals said they were secretly discussed as early as April and revisited again in July and August during visits to Russia by Iraqi delegations that included acting Defence Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi.

The war ripping apart Syria threatens to unseat Moscow's sole unwavering Arab ally, Bashar al-Assad, and has made it all the more crucial for Russia to forge other regional alliances.

Russia also lost an estimated $4 billion in outstanding contracts in the NATO-led Libya offensive that toppled Moamer Gathafi, a one-time friend of the Kremlin, and Moscow has been seeking to find a way to compensate for the loss ever since.

Iraq, meanwhile, has sought to re-equip an army that, while regarded as a capable counter-insurgency force, lacks the ability to defend the country's borders, airspace or maritime territory, according to officials.

The deal with Russia was seen by diplomats in Baghdad as a way for Iraq to avoid becoming too dependent on American military equipment, and to hold more bargaining power in weapons negotiations with Washington, which remains Baghdad's biggest arms supplier by far.

It was also a short-term measure to boost Iraq's air defence capabilities in the years before a cadre of F-16 fighter jets are delivered by the United States.

"It is not a policy to go to Russia," Deputy National Security Adviser Safa Hussein said in an interview last month. "The backbone of our armaments is from the United States, but whenever it is required that we go with another country, we will go."

"The American programmes were a little slow," he added. "We can't live with this gap in our defence capabilities for a long time, and the Americans understand this."

 

Iranian ships turn back from Yemen

EU mulls military action against human traffickers in Libya

Libya militia alliance 'carries out air raids' against IS

Petraeus gets two years probation for info leak

Entrepreneurs encourage people to ‘buy Syrian’

Over 100 children killed in Yemen since March 26

UN 'confident' rebels will sign Mali peace deal

Palestinians mourn as Jews celebrate

UN chief set to appoint Mauritanian diplomat as Yemen envoy

Obama takes 'full responsibility' for deaths of Qaeda hostages in US operation

Turkey warns Austria over decision to condemn ‘Armenian genocide’

Yemen conflict poses dangers across Gulf of Aden

Hopes for final deal on second day of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna

Security tightened at Saudi shopping malls

US returns stolen Egypt artifacts

Libyan journalist shot dead in Benghazi

Arms experts warn of 'Faustian bargain' with Iran

Fresh Saudi-led air strikes target Yemen rebels

Rebel-IS clashes in Syria kill at least 42 fighters in 24 hours

Who’s more dangerous: Jihadists who left their countries or those staying at home?

France foils 'imminent' attack by jihadist sympathiser

Algeria army kills three armed Islamists west of capital

Israel removes Palestinian teen's name from memorial wall

Egyptian businessman testifies at Al-Jazeera retrial

Kenya asks donors to save world’s largest refugee camp

Sanctions, possible Congress intervention to dominate fresh nuclear talks

Arab army chiefs kick off work on building regional force

One year after agreement, Palestinian reconciliation hits rock bottom

Arab coalition resumes airstrikes against Huthi rebels

UN member states urged to protect Iraqi cultural sites

London mulls ways to help Europe's refugee crisis

Finalising of Iran nuclear deal set to begin

Saudi–led coalition declares end to Yemen air war

Palestine teenager inscribed on Israel memorial wall

Deadly attack targets busy restaurant in Somalia capital

War in Yemen raises profile of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Libya condemns 'death smugglers' after shipwreck

Sudan security agents detain opposition activist

Main Kurdish party vows to be 'sultan' Erdogan's nightmare

Away from Ramadi, thousands of displaced face mounting challenges

‘Islamic State’ claims execution of 11 pro-government fighters in Iraq

Fears of more migrant deaths as Mediterranean becomes mass grave

Egypt court sentences Morsi to 20 years in prison

Egypt's Morsi awaits likely death penalty

US bolsters own naval presence in Arabian sea