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."

 

Sudan clamps down on journalists covering bread protests

Egypt's Sisi says will stand for re-election

Turkey launches new strikes on Kurdish targets in Syria

Pence heads to Mideast despite Muslim, Christian anger

US to overtake Saudi as world’s second crude oil producer

Iraqi, Kurdish leaders hold talks on bitter regional dispute

Russia-led Syria peace congress to be held January 30

Assad regime says Syria a 'tourist' destination

Journalists arrested while reporting Sudan protests

Aid for millions of Palestinians hostage to politics

Lebanon thwarts holiday attacks using IS informant

Mortar fire wounds 14 in Syria mental hospital

Turkish military fires on Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin

More than 32,000 Yemenis displaced in intensified fighting

UN warns of "lost generation" in South Sudan's grinding conflict

Saudi's refined oil exports offset crude curbs

Turkey's EU minister rejects any option other than full membership

Tribal feuds spread fear in Iraq's Basra

Turkey says not reassured by US comments on border force

UN chief wants to revive Syria gas attack probe

US has no intention to build border force in Syria

Lebanese intelligence service may be spying using smartphones worldwide

Egypt's Sisi sacks intelligence chief

Trump dashes Netanyahu’s hope to move US embassy to Jerusalem

Cyprus denies bail for Israeli organ trafficker

Rising Yemen currency sparks hopes of relief

Turkish ministries to investigate underage pregnancy cover-up

Iraq PM launches online appeal for election allies

Iran central bank sees claim for billions from German stock market blocked

Iraq signs deal with BP to develop Kirkuk oil fields

Israeli occupation forces raid Jenin, kill Palestinian

HRW chief says 'Nobody should be forcibly returned to Libya'

IS poses threat to Iraq one month after 'liberation'

Seven years since ousting dictator, Tunisians still protest

Iran says Trump jeopardising Airbus deals

China says Iranian oil tanker wreck located

Sudan arrests communist leader after protests

Syrian opposition joins condemnation of US 'border force'

Israeli judge detains teen until trial for viral ‘slap video’

Arab league slams US freeze of Palestinian funding

Dubai billionaire to sell 15 percent Damac stake

Britain to put women at heart of peace work in Iraq, Nigeria, South Sudan

Saudi to give Yemen government $2bn bailout

US withholds $65 million from UN agency for Palestinians

Saudi Arabia intercepts new Yemen rebel missile attack