Iraq Threatens to Cut US Ties As Russia Jumps in http://www.theaustralian.com.au
Posted 2014-07-06 20:55 GMT
Iraq's beleaguered Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is threatening to tear up a defence agreement with the US and build closer links with Iran and Russia instead.
Sources close to Mr Maliki, who is under pressure from Washington to step down, say he could cancel the Strategic Framework Agreement with the US. The SFA, signed in 2008, outlines the terms for political, economic and security co-operation between Washington and Baghdad.
The document was intended to be the basis for a lasting relationship between the two countries, promoting peace, stability and democracy in Iraq. In return it granted the US a monopoly on defence contracts worth billions.
Frustrated by President Barack Obama's lack of support in the face of insurgency by the Islamic State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, Mr Maliki is now considering abrogating the agreement altogether, the sources say.
The US has sent up to 600 military advisers to Iraq, but Secretary of State John Kerry has insisted further aid be conditional on moves by Iraq's government to heal the sectarian divide within the country. Mr Maliki has refused to make any concessions for the Sunni and Kurdish minorities.
His cancellation of the deal would be a further blow to Mr Obama's standing in the region.
"If Maliki revokes the agreement, Mr Obama will see both Russia and Iran step in to fill the gap, especially where military contracts and logistics are concerned," said one source.
Mr Maliki has been frustrated by the US failure to provide military hardware, including F-16 jets, he believes is needed for his fight against Islamic State.
Iraq instead bought Sukhoi ground-attack jets from Russia last month, some of which have already arrived in Baghdad, and flew at least two missions last week in support of Iraqi ground forces against Iskamic State forces in Tikrit. Five more jets are expected to arrive in Baghdad over the weekend.
Iran has already supplied drones, advisers, pilots, trainers and communications monitoring equipment. Russia has recently signed a £2 billion ($3.6bn) deal with Iraq to supply helicopters and a new air-defence system