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."


Russia examining US proposals to coordinate Syria strikes

EU kicks off military operation against ‘mafia of the sea’

EU to ease Turkey migrant burden on conditions

Russia air strikes targeting Chechen jihadists in Syria

Halal economy set to grow worldwide

Russia hints at willingness on Syria 'deconfliction' with US

France may strip five terrorists of nationality

Israel demolition policy: Collective punishment in violation of international law

Violence in Yemen may trigger world's next great refugee crisis

EU to 'step up' work on resettlement of refugees from Turkey

Tunisia dismantles three ISIS recruitment cells

Russia not cooperating with US in Syria safety talks

‘Islamic State’ claims series of deadly attacks in Yemen

Recent unrest leaves Netanyahu with tough political choices

NATO accuses Russia of violating Turkey airspace

Unpaid teachers in Iraq Kurdistan go on strike to end ‘farce’

Erdogan warns Russia not to destroy friendship with Turkey

Arab coalition troops among 15 killed in Yemen attacks

Russia has created ‘de facto no-fly zone’ for Assad

Is pro-Sisi parliament a given?

NATO warns Russia airspace violations risk inflaming tensions

Turkey urges EU to do more to topple Assad

Iran threatens boycott Frankfurt Book Fair over Rushdie’s invite

Libya rival factions resume peace talks in Morocco

Opening of Baghdad’s Green Zone to public worries US

Yemen PM escapes unharmed in Aden rocket attack

UK top counter-terrorism official accuses social media of 'undermining' investigations

Lebanon lawmakers nearly come to blows in televised meeting

Gulf Arab forces take back strategic island in Yemen

Yemeni forces besiege rebels after capturing key strait

US shows laxity in enforcement of Iran arms embargo

Turkey warns Russia over air space violations

Russia gets new warning from Pentagon as tensions simmer over Syria

Arab states silent on Russian intervention in Syria

Assault on Egyptian waiter in Jordan draws public outrage

Syria rebel factions call for new coalition to combat Assad and allies

Germany voices doubt over Russian operations in Syria

Iraq militia leader casts doubt on US seriousness about fight against ISIS

Russia jets hit nine ISIS targets in Syria over past 24 hours

Bodies of 85 migrants washed ashore in Libya

Israeli army shoots dead Palestinian teen near Bethlehem

Russia TV takes Syria coverage to new level: Perfect weather for ISIS bombing!

Netanyahu pledges 'fight to the death' as clashes spread

IS destroys Arch of Triumph in Syria's Palmyra

French FM: Syria air strikes must target all 'groups considered as terrorists'