Maliki in Russia for huge arms deal, Syria agreement
Russia eyes a record arms deal and rare agreement over Syria on
Tuesday when it hosts Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for the first
time in almost four years.
Maliki arrived in Moscow for three days of discussions Monday that
media reports speculated would conclude with the signing of a $4.3
billion arms deal that makes Russia Iraq’s biggest supplier after the
But that contract and talks about new energy tie-ups were likely to
create only the background to a strong common stance against any form of
outside pressure on Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad to leave power.
“The stance of Iraq calls for finding a political solution to the
Syrian crisis, and it is opposed to violence ... for solving the
crisis,” Maliki said in a recent television interview.
“Iraq has not intervened in Syria on behalf of the regime’s
interests, or for the interests of the armed opposition.” Talks set for
Wednesday will thus offer President Vladimir Putin a rare chance to
showcase a key regional power as an ally of his refusal to press for
Assad’s resignation or let the opposition gain the upper hand after 19
months of fighting.
Russia views Syria as its last major Middle East outpost and has most
recently refused to condemned its volleys of fire into Turkish territory
that have edged the two sides ever closer to an all-out war.
Meanwhile, Maliki also intends to use his visit to wean off his
nation’s overwhelming dependence on US weapons and technology.
A noted military analyst and the Vedomosti business daily both
reported that the $4.3 billion negotiated arms agreement involves 30
Mi-28 attack helicopters and 42 Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile