Al-Maliki eyes $5 billion defense deal with Russia

Al-Maliki eyes $5 billion defense deal with Russia

Al-Maliki eyes $5 billion defense deal with Russia

Russia’s Vladimir Putin watches the launch of a missile during an exercise. REUTERS Photo

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki set off for Moscow yesterday to sign a $5 billion contract for the sale of weapons including fighter jets, helicopters, anti-aircraft missile systems and armored vehicles to Baghdad, according to a Russian newspaper.

If the deal takes place, Iraq will be among five largest importers of Russian arms, according to Pravda. The Russian newspaper also cited Iraqi News Agency Shafaq, saying that al-Maliki may sign new contracts for the supply of arms and military equipment. In an interview with state-controlled English-language network Russia Today, al-Maliki said he would discuss “military cooperation, and efforts to address the army’s equipment needs” during his visit.

Syria on the agenda

Syria will also be on the agenda during al-Maliki’s first visit to Russia in three and a half years, as Baghdad and Moscow are accused of helping to prop up embattled President Bashar al-Assad during an uprising. The two countries have persistently called for a political solution to the conflict, and have avoided explicitly pushing for al-Assad to give up power.

Ties between Iraq and Turkey have been marred by a flurry of disputes this year, after Ankara’s refusal to extradite Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi. Russian President Vladimir Putin will also visit Turkey on Oct. 15.