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Iraq in Talks to Purchase Russian Missile Defense System amid Soleimani Fallout

Iraqi rapid response members fire a missile against Islamic State militants during a battle with the militants in Mosul, Iraq, March 11, 2017. (Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters)

The Iraqi ambassador to Iran said on Monday that the country is in negotiations to purchase the Russian S-300 missile defense system.

Iraq has sought to purchase such a system from Russia since 2017, but has been held back by pressure from the U.S. Turkey has purchased the S-400 system from Russia, a move that caused considerable tension between the country and the Trump administration.

“It’s possible that Iraq will buy the [S-300] system,” said Iraq’s ambassador Saad Jawad Qandil, adding that it was part of a push to diversify the country’s military.

The killing of Soleimani “clearly shows the need for Iraq to improve its air defenses,” said Igor Kurushchenko, a member of the Russian defense ministry general council, in comments to The National, a Dubai-based outlet. “Iraq must be able to protect itself from missiles fired from the US and Iran.”

The negotiations continue after the U.S. airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on January 2 that killed senior Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani. The strike came just days after Soleimani orchestrated a violent riot outside the American embassy in Baghdad and, according to administration officials, was timed to prevent an “imminent attack” on U.S. forces in the region.

In response to the strike, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi has repeatedly called for U.S. forces to leave the country. The U.S. State Department has dismissed Mahdi’s proposal.

The Iraqi Parliament passed a non-binding resolution on January 5 calling for all foreign troops to leave Iraq, but almost half of the body’s lawmakers didn’t show up to the vote, including representatives of Sunni Arab and Kurdish voters.

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, signed by President Trump in 2017, allows the U.S. to impose sanctions on countries that complete “significant transaction[s]” with Russian defense bodies. Iraq is currently bound by a strategic agreement to the U.S. that allows the American military to maintain a significant presence in the country.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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