October 09, 2012
Russia announced on Tuesday it has signed $4.2 billion in arms deals with Iraq, making it the largest weapons supplier to the Middle East country after the United States.
The deals, disclosed in a Russian government document issued at a meeting between Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, give Russia a big boost at a time when the future of its arms sales to Libya and Syria is uncertain.
Iraq had been all but off limits for Russia’s defense industry after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003 which ousted Saddam Hussein, one of Moscow’s biggest weapons customers.
President Vladimir Putin had vocally opposed the invasion and Moscow has struggled to claw back a share of the markets in energy, arms sales and infrastructure projects in Iraq.
“After the fall of Saddam Hussein, it looked like the country was lost forever” as a Russian arms customer, said Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Russian security and defense think tank CAST. “This is absolutely sensational.”
The contracts will help Russia maintain its position as the world’s second-biggest arms seller after the United States, Pukhov said.
In Washington, the U.S. State Department signaled it was not overly concerned by the Russian deal.
“Iraq overall has initiated some 467 foreign military sales cases with the United States. If all of these go forward, it will be worth over $12.3 billion, so obviously our own military support relationship with Iraq is very broad and very deep,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.