Iraq has reportedly signed a deal to purchase weapons from Iran, breaking a
U.S.-U.N.-imposed embargo on weapons sales by the country. The deal, if confirmed, could serve as a setback for recently warming relations between Tehran and Washington, which are edging closer to a compromise over the Middle Eastern country's contentious nuclear program.
According to Reuters journalist Ahmed Rasheed, the deal would include $195 million worth of ammunition for weapons and tanks, artillery ammunition, day and night vision goggles, protective equipment against chemical agents, communication equipment and even ammunition for American-made weapons. Rasheed reports that documents show the deal was reached in November, weeks after the U.S. responded coolly to Iraqi requests for arms. According to Rasheed, both Iraqi and Iranian officials hesitated to confirm the agreement, but did not deny it:
"We are launching a war against terrorism and we want to win this war. Nothing prevents us from buying arms and ammunition from any party and it's only ammunition helping us to fight terrorists," said the [Iraqi prime minister's] spokesman, Ali Mussawi. The Iranian government denied any knowledge of a deal to sell arms to Iraq. It would be the first official arms deal between Shi'ite Iran and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and highlight the growing bond between them in the two years since the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq.
One U.S. official told Reuters that if the deal is really happening, it would pose problems for how Washington approaches its relationship with Tehran. "Any transfer of arms from Iran to a third country is in direct violation of Iran's obligations under UNSCR 1747," he said.
For Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has been fighting al Qaeda-like Sunni militants in Western Iraq, arms are a necessity. And according to Mussawi, the government intends to get hold of them by whatever means possible. "We are launching a war against terrorism and we want to win this war. Nothing prevents us from buying arms and ammunition from any party," he said.
Still, the Iranian arms contribution would be negligible compared to America's, suggesting that the deal is a political move for Maliki -- who would need Iranian support to win a third term in office. Such an agreement could spur U.S. fears that the two countries are cozying up to each other, reducing American influence in the area, and that Western-imposed tactics aren't doing much to squeeze Iran out of any nuclear arms ambitions -- which the country has long denied, but the international community suspects it to harbor. Last week, Iran and the IAEA reached a new agreement to increase the transparency of Iran's nuclear program.