Iraq in talks with Russia for purchase of S-300 missiles

Iraq ambassador to Tehran says Baghdad is seeking to diversify its military weapons

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 22, 2017 Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile launching system is displayed at the exposition field in Kubinka Patriot Park outside Moscow during the first day of the International Military-Technical Forum Army-2017. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on June 25, 2019 that NATO-member Turkey would take delivery of Russia's S-400 missile defence system in July -- a deal that has created tensions with the United States.  / AFP / Alexander NEMENOV
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The Iraqi ambassador to Iran said on Monday that Baghdad is “in negotiations” with Moscow over the purchase of a Russian air-defence system.

Ambassador Saad Jawad Qandil said Iraq is seeking to diversify its military weapons by acquiring Russia's S-300 missiles.

“It’s possible that Iraq will buy the system,” Mr Qandil said.

The missile system is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles and is capable of engaging targets from a distance of 400 kilometres.

Baghdad has sought to buy the Russian air-defence system since 2017, but was held back by the threat of US sanctions.

Under the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), adopted by President Donald Trump's administration in 2017, any country that engages in “significant transaction” with Russian defence and intelligence sectors faces the threat of sanctions.

Several Iraqi politicians have been lobbying parliament to buy the missiles.

The head of the parliamentary security and defence committee, Mohammed Ridha, confirmed that talks had resumed to purchase the S-300 missiles.

“I do not know frankly the stage where the negotiations have reached, because I am not involved in them. All I know is that there is approval from the high Iraqi leadership for such negotiations," Mr Ridha said last week.

Russian politicians had previously suggested that Baghdad should acquire the advanced S-400 missile system.

"Iraq is a partner to Russia in military cooperation. Russia can send the necessary means to ensure the country's sovereignty and reliable protection of its airspace, including the supply of S-400 missiles and other parts of the air defence system," said Igor Kurushchenko, a member of the general council of the Russian ministry of defence.

The country has been caught in the cross-fire between Iran and US following Washington's assassination of Tehran's top military commander, Qassem Suleimani, near Baghdad's airport on January 3.

Iraq, a close ally of Iran, denounced the killing as a violation of its sovereignty and mustered parliamentary approval for the expulsion of US troops from the country.

Tehran retaliated by firing 22 ballistic missiles at two Iraqi air bases hosting US personnel.

Mr Kurushchenko said the killing of Suleimani "clearly shows the need for Iraq to improve its air defences. Iraq must be able to protect itself from missiles fired from the US and Iran."