Robert Harneis –TDO- (FRANCE) Iraq’s announcement that it is considering purchasing the Russian S400 anti-aircraft missile system has been met with threats of sanctions by the United States.

US State Department spokesperson Heather Neuert said that the US has contacted a number of countries, including Iraq, to explain the significance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) as well as recalling possible consequences behind a possible defense cooperation with Russia.

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

Neuert said she did not know whether Iraq and Russia have finalized an accord on the S-400 missile systems.

Iraq needs to purchase Russian S-400 air defense missile systems and diversify its arms imports, Director of the Iraqi Security and Strategy Center, Muataz Mahi Abdel Hamid, told the Russian state-run news agency Sputnik during an interview. According to Abdel Hamid, the reason is that the so-called “Western military strategy” has proved to be inefficient.

Iraqi MP Hakim Al-Zamili, head of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee, told Al-Ghad Press daily on Saturday, that “The Iraqi leaders realize the need to turn to the Eastern military strategy. The Western military strategy, which we started implementing after 2003 has proved inefficient and unable to ensure adequate control over military operations”.  He said, “Some countries in the Gulf prefer Iraq to stay under US control. The Americans do not want Iraq to buy S-400s, and insist that the Iraqi military should be armed in accordance with the existing agreement between Baghdad and Washington. Iraq has the right to own cutting-edge weapons to defend its territory and air space from air attacks". He added "America is a developed country, not less than any other. However, the World Trade Center was attacked by planes. So, Iraq intends to possess such a system as S-400 to defend the land, shrines and air space. We are serious about that."

The MP also pointed out that the United States "is unwilling to equip Iraq with arms and to supply it with systems that will ensure comprehensive protection in its territory and air space," but wants Iraq "to be an open arena for the realization of its own plans."

"That is why, Iraq needs to have its own anti-aircraft systems," he added. "It is our right to obtain them."

In October 2012, Moscow and Baghdad signed a contract for the supply of 48 air defense systems Pantsir-S and 36 helicopter gunships Mi-28 $4.2 billion worth. The details of the agreement were eventually changed several times as influence of the Islamic State terrorist group grew for in Iraq.

Meanwhile, rumors are circulating that Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has already ordered a team of advisers from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense and National Security Council to start negotiations for the purchase of the missile systems from the Russians.

The openly aggressive US response is in line with recent statements by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, however it is difficult to see how threatening Iraq with sanctions is likely to make it more pliant bearing in mind it benefits from strong support from next door Iran as well as free access to Russia beyond the Caspian.

Earlier this month, Chairman of the Defense Committee of the Russian Federation Council, Colonel General Viktor Bondarev, named Syria, Iraq, Sudan and Egypt as the potential buyers of the defense systems. Turkey, despite being a NATO ally of the United States, has also already agreed to buy the S400 and Saudi Arabia has also shown interest in the system.