Russia has confirmed the signing of multi-billion dollar deals with Iraq for the delivery of air defence systems for the country’s Armed Forces.
The $4.2bn contracts were disclosed in a document released by the Russian Government during a meeting between the visiting Iraqi prime minister Nuri al-Maliki and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow.
According to the document, the contracts are the largest ever signed between the two nations and were negotiated by Iraq’s acting defence minister in April, July and August 2012.
Without providing any further details, the documentsaid that the package includes 30 Mil Mi-28NE night/all-weather capable attack helicopters, an unspecified number of MiG-29M/M2 fighter jets, 50 Pantsir-S1 gun-missile short-range air defence systems, armoured vehicles and other weapons.
The new deal is considered by many as a boost to Moscow, which is facing uncertainty in future weapon exports to Libya and Syria, by making it the second largest defence supplier, only after the US.
Al-Maliki had told Russian media earlier this week that the country is seeking weapons to safeguard it and combat terrorism in mountainous and desert terrain.
"We have good relations with the United States and Iran. We do not want to live surrounded by constant conflict. We buy weapons based on the needs that we feel we have," al-Maliki said.
Iraq had not ordered weapons from Russian industry since an invasion by the US in 2003 ended the regime of its former president, Saddam Hussein, who was one of Moscow’s biggest arms customers.
However, the country is battling to defend its airspace following the withdrawal of US forces in December 2011.
Image: A Pantsir-S1 air defence system mounted on a KAMAZ-6560 chassis. Photo: Vitaly V. Kuzmin.