Iraq has signed contracts in recent months to buy more than $4.2 billion worth of weapons from Russia, according to a document issued on Tuesday at a meeting between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
The contracts were signed during visits to Russia by Iraq’s Acting Defense Chief in April, July and August, the document showed. It gave no details about the deals.
Media reports speculated that the signing of the arms deal would make Russia Iraq’s biggest supplier after the United States.
Meanwhile, Maliki also intends to use his visit to wean off his nation's overwhelming dependence on U.S. weapons and technology.
A noted military analyst and the Vedomosti business daily both reported that the $4.2 billion negotiated arms agreement involves 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters (photo) and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems.
Further discussions are reportedly underway for Iraq’s eventual acquisition of MiG-29 jets and heavy armored vehicles along with other weaponry.
Vedomosti said the deal would be Russia’s largest since 2006 and a symbol of its return to the Middle East arms markets after years of decline caused by the surging U.S. presence.
Maliki is travelling with Iraq's Oil and Trade Minister as well as the Chief of its Investment Commission -- two officials in a perfect position to approve new investments from Russia’s state energy holdings Rosneft and Gazprom.
Both Russian giants enjoyed lucrative deals in the country before those were restructured following the 2003 fall of the Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Both have expressed interest in new fields in the region that could compensate for gradually diminishing production at some of the two companies' most important but oldest fields.
Source: AFP; Vedomosti