Baghdad to get first F16s in early 2014

Baghdad to get first F16s in early 2014

Baghdad to get first F16s in early 2014

Obama (R) speaks with al-Maliki at a press conference in Washington Dec.12. Al-Maliki government will receive the first 24 F16s at the beginning of 2014. AFP Photo

Iraq will receive the first 24 out of a total of 36 F-16 fighter jets ordered from the United States at the beginning of 2014, a senior official told Reuters, despite Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leader Masoud Barzani recently opposing the sale while Nouri al-Maliki is prime minister for fear that they would be used against the region.

Iskander Witwit, deputy head of parliament’s security and defense committee, said that the first 24 planes would make up two air force squadrons. “Iraq intends to have equipment which is more developed than what neighboring countries have. Small neighboring countries like Kuwait even have five squadrons,” Witwit said.

Barzani has remained adamant that supplying al-Maliki with the planes is a dangerous step. “The F-16 must not be put in the hands of this man,” Barzani said, referring to al-Maliki. “We must either prevent him from having these weapons, or if he has them, he should not remain in his position.” Witwit dismissed Barzani’s concerns, and said the warplanes were intended to defend Iraq, not “one man.”

Al-Hashemi charged

With tension in the country running high, Iraq’s fugitive Sunni Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi and some of his bodyguards have been charged with killing six judges, ahead of a trial set to open on May 3 according to a judicial spokesman. Al-Hashemi, who is currently in Turkey, is not expected to attend. “There are many crimes of which al-Hashemi and his bodyguards are accused and confessions were obtained on them, including the assassination of six judges, mostly from Baghdad,” Higher Judicial Council spokesman Abdelsattar Bayraqdar said in a statement to Agence France-Presse. Bayraqdar put the number of charges announced against al-Hashemi and his bodyguards so far at about 150, adding that the figure could increase.