Iraq in talks to buy US fighter jets

AFP , Tuesday 12 Jul 2011

Iraq has renewed talks to buy up to 36 US F-16 fighter jets in a deal worth billions that Washington hopes will help contain neighboring Iran

Iraq had frozen a $4.2 billion deal to buy 18 fighter jets earlier year because of instability related to the Arab Spring but is now considering an even larger purchase, the the Wall Street Journal reported Monday, citing US and Iraqi officials.

The newspaper said the renewed interest was linked to higher-than-expected Iraqi oil revenues and concerns on both sides ahead of the withdrawal of the remaining 46,000 US troops from the country by the end of the year.

Any potential deal would be worth billions of dollars and take years to implement, as it would require the manufacture of the planes and the training of Iraqi pilots.
The Journal said Iraq has also requested ground-based air defense systems, including ground-to-air missiles and large guns.

It said Oman was also looking to purchase 18 F-16s at an estimated cost of $3.5 billion. US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said earlier Monday during a surprise visit to Baghdad that US forces were continuing to pursue Iran-backed insurgents, saying they had killed a "heck of a lot" of US troops.

Washington has been pressing Iraq to make a decision on whether it wants US troops to remain in the country beyond the end of the year, when all US forces are to be withdrawn under a 2008 security pact.

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