Iraq’s acting defence minister has denied media reports that a $4.2bn package of arms deals with Russia was cancelled due to corruption concerns.
Saadun al-Dulaimi announced on Saturday the deal “the deal is going ahead”, shortly after Ali Mussawi, a senior adviser to Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister, said it had been scrapped.
Al Jazeera’s Jane Arraf, reporting from Baghdad, said the order of attack helicopters and surface-to-air missiles will be used for “counterterrorism efforts”, according to Iraqi officials.
She said the deal is a signal that Baghdad “for technical reasons and for political reasons, would like to not be entirely dependent on the United States” for military armaments.
This is especially important, our correspondent said, because much of the nation’s weaponry was destroyed following the US invasion in 2003.
Dulaimi denied that there was corruption in the deal, and said the government had simply been late in providing details about the deal to an anti-corruption committee.
However, speaking to Al Jazeera from Moscow, Pavel Felgenhauer, a Russian defence analyst, said in Russia “weapons are sold by a specialised agency and arms traders”.
These groups are connected to the military “but are not the military”.
Felgenhauser also said that Russia had no legislation forbidding commissions to “foreign intermediaries” in arms-sales contracts.
Therefore, there is a possibility that “there’s big money involved for foreign countries” in such deals, Felgenhauer said.
Mussawi, while announcing that the deal had been cancelled, did not say exactly when the final decision was made to stop the deal.
The Russian embassy in Baghdad was not available for comment.
The deal was approved a month ago when a delegation led by Maliki visited Russia.
If it is finalised and implemented, it would make Russia the second-biggest arms supplier to Baghdad, after the US.
Russian media said the deliveries covered 30 Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile systems.
Discussions were also said to be under way for Iraq’s eventual acquisition of a large batch of MiG-29 fighters and helicopters, along with heavy weaponry.
The statement announcing the deals said they were secretly discussed as early as April, and revisited again in July and August during visits to Russia by Iraqi delegations that included Dulaimi.