Iraqi security forces
Iraqi security forces during clashes with al Qaida-linked Islamic militants this month. Photo by Reuters
Text size
related tags

Iran has signed a deal to sell arms and ammunition worth $195 million to Iraq, Reuters reported yesterday. Such a deal would contravene the UN embargo on weapons sales by Tehran.

The agreement was reached at the end of November, according to documents which Reuters said it had seen. Shortly before it was signed, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was in Washington, lobbying the Obama administration for extra weapons to fight al-Qaida-linked militants.

A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister would not confirm or deny the sale, but said such a deal would be understandable given Iraq's current security troubles.

"We are launching a war against terrorism and we want to win this war. Nothing prevents us from buying arms and ammunition from any party and it's only ammunition helping us to fight terrorists," said the spokesman, Ali Mussawi.

The Iranian government denied any knowledge of a deal to sell arms to Iraq. It would be the first official arms deal between Shi'ite Iran and Iraq's Shi'ite-led government and would highlight the growing bond between them in the two years since the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq.

The U.S. State Department said it was looking into the reports. "If true, this would raise serious concerns," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a news briefing.

"Any transfer of arms from Iran to a third country is in direct violation of UNSCR 1747. We are seeking clarification on the matter from the government of Iraq and to ensure that Iraqi officials understand the limits that international law places on arms trade with Iran," Psaki said, referring to the UN resolution that imposed an arms embargo on Iran.

A U.S. official said such a deal could further complicate Washington's approach to negotiating with Iran on easing international sanctions over its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at producing bombs. Iran says its aims are purely peaceful.

Asked at the Washington briefing if the deal could have come about due to Iraqi frustration at the slowness of U.S. deliveries, Psaki said the United States was committed to supporting Iraq and had provided it with more than $15 billion in military and security equipment, services, and training.

A UN diplomatic source close to the UN Security Council's Iran sanctions committee said he was aware of the Iran-Iraq arms deal and voiced concern about it, while declining to disclose details about those concerns. The source spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.