Members of the Iraqi parliament said the country was mulling the purchase of advanced Russian S-400 missile systems amid concerns that Washington might stop supporting Iraq and providing it with modern air defence armaments.

The Parliamentary Security and Defence Committee of Iraq submitted a detailed study requesting the purchase of Russian long-range, surface-to-air S-400 missile defence systems for the consideration of the country’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi on 18 April.

“The issue has already been discussed with relevant figures at the General Command of Armed Forces, and now awaits the prime minister’s agreement,” committee member Badr al-Ziyadi was quoted as saying by the Arabic-language newspaper al-Sabaah.

As he underscored the country’s need to enhance its defence capabilities, the parliamentarian explained that the acquisition of the S-400 missile system could be finalised after ratification of the deal by the new government that succeeds the current caretaker one, adding his parliamentary committee “will support the next Iraqi government’s decisions in this regard, and will present relevant proposals and pieces of advice to it”

“The approval to acquire such a sophisticated system requires large financial allocations and a political decision in order to diversify the sources to get the weapons as we cannot just rely on the Western camp, but rather need to incline towards the Eastern camp as well,” said Ziyadi.

In a number of previous instances, the Iraqi lawmaker had gone on record as voicing concerns over attempts to pressure Baghdad to forgo signing arms contracts with other states.

Thus, last month the Iraqi lawmaker had revealed that US and Israeli arms companies were urging his government to refrain from negotiating the purchase of sophisticated military equipment with other countries.

“There are companies and traders pushing to prevent Iraq from concluding contracts to purchase weapons from developed countries,” he was cited by the Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency as saying on 18 March.

Earlier, on 20 January, Badr al-Ziyadi said Baghdad, in a bid to boost its security from any possible aggression, was mulling dispatching delegations to a number of countries to negotiate the procurement of advanced air defence missile systems.

“The delegations intend to visit countries like Russia, China and Ukraine to negotiate the purchase of modern systems to protect Iraq’s airspace… The Iraqi parliament is right now forming a joint executive and legislative delegation to visit developed countries and sign contracts on procuring advanced weapons,” al-Sabaah daily quoted the official as saying.

Heightened US-Iraq Tension

Baghdad has been considering buying Russian S-400 missile systems as concerns mount that Washington might withdraw support for Iraq, the Wall Street Journal quoted Karim Elaiwi, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s Security and Defence Committee as saying in January 2020.

“We are talking to Russia about the S-400 missiles but no contracts have been signed yet. We need to get these missiles, especially after Americans have disappointed us many times by not helping us in getting proper weapons,” said Elaiwi.

The move was confirmed by Abdul Khaleq al-Azzawi, another Iraqi parliament defence committee member, who said:

“We authorised the [Iraqi] Prime Minister to get air defence weapons from any country he wants and we authorised him to spend the money for it, from any country. From Russia or anyone.”

The Iraqi moves came amid heightened tensions between Iraq and Washington that were exacerbated after the American military on 3 January launched a drone attack that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force, near Baghdad International Airport.

Indignation over the attack triggered Iraq's parliament into passing a resolution that called on the government to expel foreign troops from the country and cancel its request for support from the US-led coalition to fight Daesh*.

In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, said Washington was only willing to discuss force reconfiguration with the Iraqis, dismissing demands to withdraw troops.

Previously, Washington had also warned Iraq of the consequences of striking deals with Russia to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly the S-400 missile systems.

Back in February 2018, former US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the US had contacted Iraq, along with a number of other states, to explain the likely fallout from defying the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

On 2 August 2017, US President Donald Trump signed into law the CAATSA that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

Congress passed the bill in July 2017 in response to accusations that Russia had sought to influence the 2016 US presidential election, with Moscow repeatedly denying the allegations, saying such actions go against the principles and accepted conduct of its foreign policy.

Russia has nonetheless succeeded in preserving its number two position among the world’s top arms exporters in recent years, defying sanctions targeting its defence-industry-related entities in line with its chief export rival, Washington’s CAATSA law.