Iraq Examining Russian, Ukrainian, Chinese SAM Systems

S-400 Surface-to-Air Missile System. Image

Iraq will send military delegations to Russia, Ukraine, and China to discuss the potential purchase of air-defense weapons, an Iraqi lawmaker has said.

On January 20, 2020, Badr al-Ziyadi, who is a member of the Iraqi parliament’s defense and security committee, told al-Sabah newspaper, “The delegations intend to visit such countries as Russia, China, and Ukraine to negotiate the purchase of modern systems to protect Iraq’s airspace. The Iraqi parliament is right now forming a joint executive and legislative delegation to visit the developed countries and sign contracts on procuring advanced weapons.”

Al-Ziyadi suggested that such military hardware could be paid for as part of a trade for Iraqi oil, citing an “oil for reconstruction” agreement with China. The lawmaker noted, “Many nations indicated readiness to ship modern weapons to Iraq in exchange for oil. This is the best way to ensure the shipment of good weapons to Iraq without corruption and bribery.”

He did not specify which systems Iraq would be interested in purchasing.

Baghdad has been said to be interested in Russia’s S-400 surface-to-air missile system or the older S-300. The S-300PS is no longer in production in Russia – meaning any of these would need to be bought secondhand – while the S-300VM is still being produced. Ukraine has a range of ex-Soviet missile systems in service and has worked to bring systems back into operation from storage; presumably any Iraqi purchase of Ukrainian equipment would be secondhand. China is ramping up production of a number of different air-defense weapons. Its S-300-equivalent, the HQ-9, has previously been said to be a system Iraq was interested in.

The lawmaker criticized the U.S., which has been a source of arms for Iraq since the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein, saying, “The inadequate arming of border forces with modern weapons was the result of a mistake in relying on an agreement with the United States, which spent enormous sums of money and never fully finished” the rearmament effort.

“This is why the Iraqis must count on themselves and turn to the eastern bloc to equip its army,” Al-Ziyadi added.

The U.S. has warned Iraq against purchasing the S-400. Under the CAATSA law, the U.S. has sanctioned much of Russia’s defense industry – including S-400 manufacturer Almaz-Antey – and has threatened to sanction states that import the system and other Russian hardware. However, Washington has not yet imposed sanctions on NATO ally Turkey, which imported the S-400 last year.

About Derek Bisaccio

Military markets analyst, covering Eurasia, Middle East, and Africa.

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