Iran has signed a deal to sell Iraq arms and ammunition worth $195 million, according to documents seen by Reuters - a move that would break a UN embargo on weapons sales by Tehran.
The deal was reached end of November, the documents showed, just weeks after Iraq’s Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki returned from Washington, where he lobbied the Obama administration for extra weapons to fight al Qaeda-linked militants.
The eight contracts signed with Iran include:
- Ammunition for light and medium weapons: $75 million
- Ammunition for tanks artillery and mortars: $57.178 million
- Light and medium weapons and mortar launchers: $25.436 million
- Artillery ammunition type 155 mm: $16.375 million
- Day and night vision goggles and mortar guiding devices: $7.320 million
- Protective equipment against chemical agents: $6.676 million
- Communications equipment: $3.795 million
- M12 USA ammunition 20 X 102 mm: $3 million.
Some in Washington are nervous about providing sensitive U.S. military equipment to a country they worry is becoming too close to Iran. Several Iraqi lawmakers said Maliki had made the deal because he was fed up with delays to U.S. arms deliveries.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Prime Minister would not confirm or deny the sale, but said such a deal would be understandable given Iraq’s current security troubles.
“We are launching a war against terrorism and we want to win this war. Nothing prevents us from buying arms and ammunition from any party and it's only ammunition helping us to fight terrorists,” said the spokesman, Ali Mussawi.
The Iranian government denied any knowledge of a deal to sell arms to Iraq. It would be the first official arms deal between Iran and Iraq and highlight the growing bond between them in the two years since the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The official documents seen by Reuters showed that 6 of 8 contracts were signed with Iran’s Defense Industries Organization to supply Iraq with light and medium arms, mortar launchers, ammunition for tanks as well as artillery and mortars.
A final two contracts were agreed to with the state-owned Iran Electronic Industries for night vision goggles, communications equipment and mortar guiding devices.
One of the contracts includes equipment to protect against chemical agents. An Iraqi army major with knowledge of procurement issues said that would include items such as gas masks and gloves, as well as injections. Baghdad has expressed fear the militants will use such agents against its forces.
Officials from the Iraqi and Iranian Defense Ministries signed the agreements, according to the documents. They did not list a timetable for deliveries and it was not possible to confirm whether they had taken place.
Iran already supplies Baghdad with electricity and gas and reiterated an offer of military assistance in January.
The weapons purchases amount to a drop in the ocean for Iraq, which receives most of its arms from the United States and has also bought weapons and helicopters from Russia and other countries.
In recent months, the US government has delivered Hellfire missiles and surveillance drones to Iraq as part of its long-standing relationship with Baghdad, which it invaded in 2003. It has also supplied Iraq with M1 Abrams tanks and is in process of delivering F-16 fighter jets.
Since fighting broke out in western Anbar in January, Washington has pushed to move ahead with the sale of 24 Apache attack helicopters to Iraq, which had been held up for months due to the concerns of U.S. lawmakers about how Maliki would use them.
A senior Iraq Army Officer said Iran was the best source for quick shipments as some of the arms used by the Iraqi Army are similar to those manufactured by Tehran, including assault weapons, mortars, artillery and tank ammunition. Iran even produces ammunition for US-made M-12 assault rifles, used by the Iraqi military.