Iraq seeks air defence systems to counter possible Israeli airstrikes
Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani's government, with support from the ruling Coordinating Framework coalition, has initiated extensive contacts with several countries to purchase air defence systems, two Iraqi officials have stated to Al Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic sister website.
As Israel's army continues its war on Palestine's Gaza Strip and southern Lebanon, the step by the Iraqi authorities is viewed as a precautionary measure in case Israel's war spills over to Iraq amid continuous attacks by Iran-backed militias on United States military bases in the country.
The move also comes due to Iraq's frustration with the US for still not going through with its promises for several years to help rehabilitate Iraq's air defence sector.
Sudani, on Monday, 30 October, confirmed his cabinet is working hard to develop and equip the Iraqi army with modern weapons and defensive systems from global sources.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq has now claimed Responsibility for both Attacks on U.S. Forces in the Middle East within the last few hours, with Rockets claimed to Struck the U.S. Operation Base near the Conoco Gas Fields in Eastern Syria and Al-Asad Airbase in Western Iraq. pic.twitter.com/fUqMloCCYx— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) October 30, 2023
He made these comments while inaugurating the Air Force Academy at Al-Suwayrah Air Base in the Wasit Governorate, nearly 46 kilometres southwest of the capital city of Baghdad.
"The ministry of defence was one of the important ministries that we emphasised to develop its infrastructure, enhance the capabilities of the Iraqi Army, and our armed forces in general, and equip them with the most advanced and new military weapons and equipment from the finest global sources," Sudani was quoted by state News Agency (INA) as saying. "The protection of Iraq, both its land and airspace, is part of their mission and duty. They aim to preserve every inch of this sacred land, ensuring every city and town remains safe, secure, stable, and prosperous while being resistant to anyone who dares to commit aggression and mischief."
"Iraq is preparing for possible Israeli attacks on its territory if the current confrontation widens. They do not want to become a new version of Syria, subject to repeated Israeli strikes without a response," one of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the website.
The officials also emphasised that the US has been delaying the provision of air defence systems to Iraq and reneging on the promises made in September 2020 to provide modern radar and early warning systems.
There is a solid push for the purchase of advanced air defence systems, and this issue is expected to be a prominent topic during the upcoming visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Baghdad. Iraq aims to develop its air defence systems to protect its airspace fully, the official added.
TNA contacted several members of the Iraqi Parliament's Security and Defence Committee, but they were not immediately available to comment.
An Iraqi MP, also wishing not to be named, noted to TNA that Iraq also aims to purchase air defence systems from Russia and China. The lawmaker also indicated that Iraq is also considering the purchase of air defence equipment from Iran to safeguard the Iraqi airspace and that Sudani has tasked a military-technical committee with the sensitive issue.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted Sudani in the Kremlin on 10 October and praised cooperation between their countries.
Aed al-Hilali, a member of the ruling coalition in Iraq, also said to TNA that in recent years, the country has been subjected to repeated airstrikes by both American and Israeli aircraft.
"Previous governments failed to address the issue of purchasing air defence systems, leaving Iraq's airspace vulnerable and unstable, threatening the country's security and stability," he said.
The official also disclosed that Sudani's cabinet is determined to purchase advanced air defence systems capable of protecting Iraqi airspace from any violations.
Muaed al-Jheshi, an expert in military affairs, emphasised that Iraq had tried to purchase advanced air defence systems, and the previous attempts were politically hindered.
He noted that the main obstacle had been the US refusal and predicted that the US would continue to hinder Iraq's ability to acquire those systems soon.
"Owning advanced air defence systems is crucial in light of recent developments in the region to avoid the Syrian experience within Iraqi territory. The Iraqi airspace is vulnerable, and any combat aircraft can penetrate it and carry out attacks, even in the capital, Baghdad. There have been incidents of bombing in Baghdad previously, presumably carried out by Israeli warplanes," al-Jheshi argued.
Qasem Soleimani, the former head of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), were killed when a US drone hit their convoy at Baghdad's International Airport on 3 January 2020.
Turkey and Iran consistently breach Iraq's airspace, too. Turkey claims it only targets bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) inside Iraq. Iran has launched several ballistic missiles as well as drone attacks against bases of the Iranian Kurdish opposition parties based in the region.
In both cases, Turkish and Iranian airstrikes have killed hundreds of Iraqi civilians and Kurdish security forces.