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US main stumbling block to Iraq’s possession of advanced air defense systems: Lawmaker

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This file picture shows Russian-built S-400 missile defense systems deployed in an undisclosed location in Russia. (Photo by DPA)

A member of the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee has blamed the United States for opposing Baghdad’s acquisition of sophisticated air defense missile systems to protect its airspace against any possible act of aggression.

“Since 2014, Americans have acted as the major stumbling block to Iraq’s procurement of an advanced air defense system. Repeated attempts to sign contracts with a number of countries, including Russia, have been unsuccessful because of Washington's interference,” Kata’ al-Rikabi told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency in an exclusive interview on Wednesday night.

Rikabi added, “Americans installed Patriot [missile] systems in Ain al-Assad [air base] and other bases, where their forces are currently deployed in violation of [Iraq’s] national sovereignty and without the approval of the government. The presence of foreign forces [on Iraqi soil] is indeed an act of aggression, let alone the establishment of bases and deployment of systems and military hardware.”

Last week, the Iraqi parliament's security and defense committee submitted an in-depth study to the country’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, requesting the procurement of the Russian-built long-range, surface-to-air S-400 missile defense system.

“The committee has presented a comprehensive study to the prime minister, demanding approval for the purchase of the advanced S-400 air defense system. The issue has already been discussed with relevant figures at the General Command of Armed Forces, and now awaits the premier’s agreement,” Badr al-Ziyadi, a member of the committee, told Arabic-language al-Sabaah newspaper on April 18.

He emphasized that the purchase of the S-400 missile system, with the aim of boosting the country’s defense capabilities, will be finalized once the next Iraqi government is formed and it ratifies procurement of the system.

The United States has already warned Iraq of the consequences of extending military cooperation with Russia, and striking deals to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly S-400 missile systems.

Former US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on February 22, 2018 that Washington has contacted many countries, including Iraq, to explain the significance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and possible consequences that would arise in the wake of defense agreements with Moscow.

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

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