Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Iraq: F-16 deal shelved

The government has backed out of its deal to purchase F16 fighter aircraft from the US. The agreement has been cancelled to free up money to spend on projects aimed at easing the social tensions that have erupted in the past weeks. Government spokesman Ali Dabbagh stated, “The F-16 contract has been postponed this year and the money has been diverted toward improving food rations.” Similarly, a member of the parliamentary finance committee, Mohamed Khalil, explained, “In the new draft budget for 2011 that was presented to us, $900 million was earmarked for the purchase of F-16s, which will be used to finance rations and social benefits.”

This deal had been approved by the cabinet at the end of January, following a series of delays caused primarily by the fact there wasn't a functioning government for much of last year. Although according to Dabbagh the deal was worth $900 million, a spokesman for US military forces in Iraq, Brig Gen Jeffrey Buchanan, has stated that the long-term value of the deal for 18 aircraft was more akin to $3 billion, including the ammunition, spare parts, training and other elements. According to one Iraqi general the aircraft were needed for the country's defence.

However, the government clearly deemed that the money would be better spent elsewhere. Yet despite the government's affirmations that the deal was cancelled to free up funds, rumours have been flying around inside Iraq that the Iranians pressurised the government to go back on the agreement because they were opposed to Baghdad's doing such a major deal with the Americans. Although such talk would appear to be unfounded, it isn't just coming from the street. This month one Iraqiya member claimed that the the deal was cancelled directly as a
result of Iranian pressure. However, as yet there is no further evidence to corroborate such claims.

For more news and expert analysis about Iraq, please see Iraq Focus.

© 2011 Menas Associates

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