MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : PUTIN ARMS IRAQ / US warns Iraq of sanctions, if it buys Russian military equipment

Iraq warned of sanctions if it purchases Russian military equipment – Laurie mylroie  December 10th 2020   02:12

WASHINGTON DC (Kurdistan 24) – The US has warned Iraq against purchasing Russian military equipment, following the visit late last month of Iraqi Foreign Minister, Fuad Hussein, to Moscow.

Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs, R. Clarke Cooper, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, suggested that if Iraq were to buy Russian military equipment, the US was likely to impose sanctions on the country.

Provision for such a penalty is enshrined in a 2017 US law known as CAATSA—Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. It prescribes economic sanctions for countries buying Russian or Chinese military equipment.

In a joint press conference on Nov. 25 with Fuad Hussein, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that details of new arms sales to Iraq would be discussed, when Iraq’s Defense Minister, Juma Anad Saadoun, visits Moscow, a trip that is slated for the “foreseeable future.”

Hussein, for his part, explained that Russia and Iraq would sign 14 documents of cooperation, including in the fields of the “oil and gas industry, healthcare, and trade.”

“Although we touched on some issues of military cooperation, the details would be discussed during the visit of the defense minister,” Hussein added, appearing to echo Lavrov.

Subsequently, Iraqi parliamentarian, Saran al-Aajibi, a member of the parliament’s Security and Defense Council, said Iraq was looking to purchase Russian military equipment, particularly to improve its air defenses.

Responding to a question from Kurdistan 24 about the US response to such a purchase, Cooper suggested that Washington would oppose it.

CAATSA “is a tool that’s available” to the US, he said. “It’s one that is certainly applicable.”

“It’s one that is cited with all of our partners, regardless if it’s Iraq or any other partner that we work with, that having a significant materiel or platforms or technology from Moscow or Beijing does not work,” he continued.

“It does not match up with interoperability with US platforms and US security cooperation,” Cooper stressed.

The Turkish Example

Turkey has purchased Russia’s most advanced air defense system, the S-400. According to CAATSA, the US should have imposed sanctions on Ankara for that purchase.

However, US President Donald Trump cultivated a friendly relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Although Turkey was removed from its role in producing the F-35, America’s most advanced fighter jet, because the S-400 is seen as a threat to the plane, no other penalty was imposed.

Defense analysts were concerned that in addition to the implications for the trilateral relationship among Washington, Ankara, and Moscow, such inaction set a bad example for other US allies. They might well conclude that Washington was not serious about proscribing Russian weapons purchases.

The US Congress shares that concern, and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which provides for defense spending in the next fiscal year, includes a requirement that CAATSA sanctions be imposed on Turkey—within 30 days—for its acquisition of the S-400.

The House of Representatives approved the final version of the $740 billion bill, and it has gone to the Senate for its approval.

Trump has threatened a rare veto over that legislation for entirely unrelated matters: he wants language to regulate social media companies and objects to renaming US military bases that honor leaders of the south during America’s civil war.

Whether the bill passes in its current form or is changed to accommodate Trump’s objections, the language mandating CAATSA sanctions for Turkey will, almost certainly, be retained, and that may well have implications for any Iraqi purchases of Russian arms.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany