What’s the real deal breakdown?
Iraq is buying 4.2 billion in Russian weapons. That order accounts for a third of Russian arms contracts this year, so Iraq is keeping the Russian Arms industry afloat. This is bad news for us.
After Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq, those weapons will be at the disposal of a sectarian Shiite government allied with Iran and Syria. But likely Iraq is not just the receiver for Iranian and Syrian weapons. The Russians for now appear to be willing to move those weapons directly to Syria, though the possibility cannot be ruled out.
Let’s look at the specific weapons.
Iraq is buying 30 Russian MI-28 attack helicopters, worth $2 billion, along with 42 Pantsir short-to-medium-range surface-to-air missile and anti-aircraft artillery weapon systems, worth $2.3 billion. The country also reportedly intends to purchase Russian MiG fighter jets as well as armored vehicles.
Iraq is rebuilding its air force and buying Russian means it does not have to deal with any obstacles from the US about using them. The Russians will not give Maliki problems about buying parts and missiles, no matter how he wants to use them, and there will be no recognition systems that will prevent Iraq from firing on American planes or on the aircraft of countries that buy American equipment.
The significance is that this type of air power will free Iraq to confront Saudi and other Gulf aircraft, which buying American would not allow it to do. It would be premature to suggest that another Kuwait/Iraq showdown is coming, this time with Iraq wedged inside a Shiite axis of Syria and Iran, but it can’t be ruled out either.
And then there’s Turkey.