Documents seen by Reuters revealed Tuesday Feb. 25 that Iran had signed a deal to sell Iraq arms and ammunition worth $195 million – in defiance of the UN embargo on Iranian arms exports.
The documents were dated to late November, meaning that the transaction was signed just weeks after Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been to Washington to lobby the Obama administration for extra weapons to fight al Qaeda-linked militants.
The US State Department said it was looking into the disclosure. “If true, this would raise serious concerns," spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing. “Any transfer of arms from Iran to a third country is in direct violation of UNSCR 1747,” she pointed out.
Iraq’s Ministry of Defense reacted by saying that numerous international firms, including Iran’s Defense Industries Organization, had recently submitted offers to provide Iraq with military hardware. However, Iran’s offers were turned down.
There are difficulties with this assertion.
In the first place, Tehran doesn’t need to submit to tenders in order to sell Iraq arms. In the second, the Baghdad government’s disavowal is scarcely credible.
According to DEBKA Weekly’s intelligence sources, the Reuters document showed that Iran had been reacting to an earlier revelation at the time, namely that Saudi Arabia was holding talks with Pakistan to procure and pay for heavy arms for Syrian rebels, including anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles.
US promises fighter jets for… late 2016
So the document depicted the Iranian arms deal with Iraq as a tit for tat threat; if Saudi Arabia gave the Syrian rebels arms, Iran would retaliate by selling arms to Al-Maliki, whom the Saudis despise.
And according to some sources, the Reuters disclosure was also designed to expose the Obama administration’s sluggishness in delivering arms aid to Baghdad for combating al Qaeda.
Many people in Washington and Baghdad believe the administration is deliberately dragging its feet on arms for Baghdad
On Feb. 13, US Maj. Gen. William Bender, deputy chief of the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, shed light on this claim. He informed reporters at the US embassy in Baghdad that the Iraqi government signed a 30-year contract with Lockheed Martin for the supply of F-16 fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters, and initial training for 16 Iraqi pilots. But he then noted that although this training course begins early next month, Lockheed Martin has not yet started manufacturing the airplanes.
Therefore, the Maliki government will not receive the systems it needs to fight al Qaeda before the end of 2016.
For now, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) has little to fear from Iraqi military resistance as it sweeps forward to occupy more and more territory in western and eastern Iraq.
On Feb. 21, a long Al Qaeda convoy of minivans bristling with heavy machine guns and anti-aircraft weapon seized control of al-Sainiyah, a town near the strategic oil refinery city of Baiji – midway between Baghdad and Mosul and only 130 kilometers north of Baghdad.
The attackers quickly overran government buildings and raised black Al Qaeda flags on their roofs.They voluntarily withdrew the next day without encountering any Iraqi military resistance.
Let the international community take care of al Qaeda
The al Qaeda forces holding the key western town of Falluja since December 2013 have likewise encountered no Iraqi military resistance, although no less than three Iraqi divisions are deployed around the city, including the Republican Guard division known as the Golden Division, because of its superior equipment and elite combat personnel.
Aside from daily Iraqi aerial bombardments – no more than pinpricks for an enemy which is scattered among the civilian population – none of the three divisions have gone into action to dislodge al Qaeda fighters from Falluja. The Iraqi army, in which the US invested $20 billion, shows no sign of fighting spirit.
In any case, no marching orders have come from Baghdad, where the politicians including the prime minister are sunk in despair. Government officials admit freely that their armed forces are not up to fighting al Qaeda and urge the international community in the West or the Arab world to assume responsibility for dealing with the jihadists.
We don’t have the money or military resources to tackle a war on al Qaeda, they say. Let someone else carry the load.