A senior Iraqi legislator says Baghdad is in talks with Moscow to purchase Russian-built long-range, surface-to-air S-300 missile defense systems.
The head of the Security and Defense Committee in the Iraqi parliament, Mohammad Reza, told the Arabic service of Russia’s Sputnik news agency in an exclusive interview on Thursday that Iraqi authorities have moved to revive negotiations with their Russian counterparts over the S-300 contract.
“I do not know frankly the stage where the negotiations have reached, because I am not involved in them. All I know is that there is approval from the high Iraqi leadership for such negotiations,” Reza pointed out.
Earlier, Igor Kurushchenko, a member of the General Council of the Russian Ministry of Defense, announced that Iraq could improve its air defense capabilities with the help of the Russian S-400 missile system.
Kurushchenko underlined that the recent US assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), in an airstrike ordered by US President Donald Trump, clearly indicated that Baghdad needs to improve its air defense system.
“Iraq is a partner to Russia in the field of technical military cooperation. Russia can send the necessary means to ensure the country’s sovereignty and reliable protection of its airspace, including the supply of S-400 missiles and other parts of the air defense system,” he pointed out.
Back on February 27, 2018, a senior Iraqi official said his country needs to purchase the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missile defense systems and diversify its arms imports as the so-called “Western military strategy” has been a failure in the Arab country.
The director of the Iraqi Security and Strategy Center, Muataz Mahi Abdel Hamid, told Russia’s Sputnik news agency in an exclusive interview at the time that Baghdad is need of buying more Russian-made weapons, which were widely in use before the 2003 US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
“The Iraqi leaders realize the need to turn to the Eastern military strategy [and its Eastern partners]. The Western military strategy, which we started implementing after 2003 has proved inefficient and unable to ensure adequate control over military operations,” he said.
Abdel Hamid further noted that “a number of regional countries” do not like Iraq to be militarily strong.
“Some countries in the [Persian] Gulf prefer Iraq to stay under US control. The Americans do not want Iraq to buy S-400s, and insist that the Iraqi military should be armed in accordance with the existing agreement between Baghdad and Washington,” he said.
The United States has already warned Iraq, among a number of other countries, of the consequences of extending military cooperation with Russia, and striking deals to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly S-400 missile systems.
Former US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on February 22, 2018 that Washington has contacted many countries, including Iraq, to explain the significance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and possible consequences that would arise in the wake of defense agreements with Moscow.
On August 2, 2017, US President Donald Trump signed into law the CAATSA that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.