Russia to Expand Defense Cooperation with Iraq

Russia declared it will expand military cooperation with the Iraqi government, after working to provide Baghdad with attack jets earlier this year. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the ITAR-Tass state news wire on July 24 that expanding military cooperation with the Iraqis is a “strategic priority” for the Russians. Shoigu and his Iraqi counterpart, Defense Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi, reportedly discussed future prospects for cooperation, future military sales contracts, and potential training for officers during a recent meeting. Al-Duliami said Iraq is seeking to further Russian cooperation because the country is facing “difficulties” in its fight with Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL) militants. In late June, Iraq received a shipment of Su-25 ground attack aircraft in a deal brokered by the Russians. At the same time, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki criticized the US effort to provide the Iraqis with F-16s, declaring the process was “long winded.” Pentagon officials have since maintained the original delivery and training schedule for F-16 deliveries holds firm, and the Defense Department has said the Iraqis have given no indication they do not want to fulfill the terms of the F-16 agreement.