Iraq seeks to connect strings to arms purchases from Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been keen to spice up navy gross sales to overseas patrons, however his overseas coverage typically snags his ambitions. International curiosity in Turkey’s flourishing protection business has risen for the reason that Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh final yr, by which the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 armed drones had been extensively touted as key to Azerbaijan’s navy success. Most just lately, Iraq has expressed curiosity in shopping for TB2 drones and assault helicopters from Turkey, however Baghdad’s efforts to connect strings to the deal has thrown a spanner within the works.

Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad revealed in late August that Baghdad had reached a preliminary understanding with Ankara to purchase an unspecified variety of TB2 drones and had additionally requested for affords for 12 T129 ATAK helicopters and 6 KORAL digital warfare programs. The minister spoke after assembly together with his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar at a global protection business honest in Istanbul earlier in August. 

It was thrilling information for Turkey that Iraq, typically squeezed between the United States and Iran, was turning to Turkey for navy tools. Iraq wants such weapons to battle the resurging Islamic State and beef up its protection capabilities as Washington prepares to finish its fight mission in Iraq.

A Turkish supply conversant in the talks instructed Al-Monitor that the Iraqis had first expressed curiosity in shopping for Turkish weapons throughout Akar’s January go to to Baghdad, however introduced different dossiers to the negotiating desk in ensuing conferences. In return for navy purchases, the Iraqis requested for a rise within the circulate charges within the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, which originate in Turkey and circulate all the way down to Syria and Iraq, and the withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Bashiqa base near Mosul, in response to the supply.

Baghdad has additionally been irked by the growth of Turkish cross-border navy operations towards the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the outlawed armed group that has fought Ankara since 1984 and has lengthy taken refuge within the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan throughout the border. Turkey’s cross-border pursuit of the PKK is nothing new, however Turkish operations have just lately expanded past PKK camps alongside the border, reaching so far as Sinjar and Makhmour. Though Baghdad has protested the operations, it’s effectively conscious it can’t affect Ankara on this situation and has not introduced it up as a situation. Still, any concessions from Turkey on the water situation amid the water shortages in Iraq and its navy presence in Bashiqa would imply ample brownie factors for Baghdad in home politics.

Though the prospect of Turkey’s withdrawal from Bashiqa can’t be dominated out, Ankara has refused to make its anti-terrorism efforts a topic of bargaining. Similarly, it’s reluctant to make a dedication on the quantity of water circulate to Iraq. Turkey has lengthy argued that water shortages in Iraq should do with the nation’s out of date irrigation system and poor water administration along with decreases in rainfall. 

Back in 2019, Erdogan appointed a particular envoy to Iraq for a mission targeted on bettering Iraq’s water administration. Water shortages in Iraq and Syria are sometimes blamed on Turkey and its dams on the Euphrates and the Tigris. Under a 1987 protocol on the Euphrates with Syria, Turkey is required to let at the very least 500 cubic meters per second of water circulate to Syria. On the Tigris, nonetheless, it has made no dedication to Iraq. Turkey contributes solely 40% to the water circulate of the Tigris, whereas Iraq contributes 51% and Iran 9%. 

Asked why the Iraqi authorities would go for Turkish navy tools, the supply pressured that the exhibiting of the TB2 drones in Nagorno-Karabakh performed an vital function, as did Iraqi hopes of extracting concessions on contentious points with Turkey. Iraq, the supply added, is in search of various suppliers to cut back its dependency on US weapons and munitions, particularly after “the problems encountered in the upgrade of its F-16 jets.” 

Russia, China and Iran have emerged as different various suppliers. “Curiously, the Russians have not made a strong push to add a military dimension to their ties with Iraq,” the supply noticed. “The Nagorno-Karabakh war brought the Turkish option to the fore. Iraq’s needs focus mostly on systems and munitions for use in fighting terrorism. What Turkey could offer in this regard appears reasonable to them,” he added.

The supply mentioned that no particular response has come from Washington so far, however pressured that US affect would definitely sway Iraq’s final selections on navy purchases. “They are not in a position to twist the United States’ arm,” he mentioned.

Washington is more likely to be involved over the danger of Iran-linked Shiite militias getting ahold of armed drone applied sciences. Moreover, the Turkish protection business is dealing with severe fallout from political crises with Washington, together with sanctions over Ankara’s buy of the Russian S-400 air protection programs. 

A working example is a $1.5 billion contract with Pakistan for 30 T129 ATAK helicopters, signed in 2018 as Turkey’s largest ever arms sale. Yet, Turkey has didn’t ship the helicopters as a result of Washington’s refusal to situation export licenses for US applied sciences used to make the gunship, together with the engine. Pakistan agreed to a different extension of the supply deadline in March, however would possibly find yourself revisiting a Chinese supply for the CAIC Z-10 assault helicopter.

Since the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Turkey’s armed drones, too, have come within the crosshairs of the US Congress. In a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken in August, 27 lawmakers referred to as for “an immediate suspension of any export permits for US drone technology to Turkey,” arguing that Turkey’s drone program “has destabilized multiple regions of the globe and threatens US interests, allies and partners.”

Canada has already suspended the exportation of some drone know-how to Turkey over the alleged use of Canadian-made tools by Azeri forces in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Last yr Iraqi officers signaled curiosity in buying Su-57 warplanes from Russia. They have additionally intermittently contemplated shopping for Russian S-400 or S-300 air protection programs. Yet, the US sanctions on Turkey over the S-400s are believed to be forcing Baghdad to suppose twice in regards to the extent of its cooperation with Russia.

Iraq acquired 20 Chinese CH-4B drones in 2015, however has misplaced eight of them in operations towards IS, whereas the remaining models have been grounded by upkeep points. And with the issues plaguing Iraq’s F-16 fleet, Turkey’s TB2 drones do seem as a low-cost, high-efficiency possibility for Iraq. 

Yet, the political instability and uncertainties in Baghdad stand out as one other caveat. “Getting decisions made and then implementing them is not easy with Baghdad, not only in terms of the defense industry cooperation offer but in other projects as well,” the supply instructed Al-Monitor, citing for instance the Turkish envoy’s failure to make progress on water administration. 

The upcoming Iraqi elections have raised uncertainty on how lengthy it should take to have a brand new authorities in place. “Commitments made in such an environment are of low credibility,” the supply mentioned. “Yet, if political hurdles are overcome, Iraq could benefit greatly from military cooperation with Turkey. … Training and equipment support from Turkey as well as Turkey’s experience in fighting terrorism are important for them,” the supply added.

From Ankara’s perspective, the systemic downside standing in the way in which of protection cooperation will proceed it doesn’t matter what authorities emerges from the Iraqi elections. Also, the spats over water and navy bases stay vital on the Iraqi facet. Baghdad’s approach to navy cooperation seems based mostly on soothing its home public.

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