Foreign Policy Blogs

Iraq, Arms, and Oil

Back in the swing of things.

Iraq could overtake Russia as the world’s second-largest oil supplier behind Saudi Arabia by the 2030s, nearly tripling its current output, according to a report from the International Energy Agency.” (h/t The LA Times)

Iraq has signed contracts to buy Russian arms worth $4.2bn (£2.6bn; 3.2bn euros) this year, Russian news agencies report.  Moscow, the main supplier of arms to Iraq under Saddam Hussein, thus becomes the country’s second-biggest arms supplier after the US.” (h/t The Chicago Tribune)

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Two isolated news stories, linked by two players and joined at the provocative nexus between arms and oil…

Tuesday, negotiations between Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Russian counterpart, Demitry Medvedev, yielded big news: Thirty Mi-28 attack helicopters and forty-two Pantsir S1 surface-to-air missiles were sold to Iraq. Future parleys are expected to proffer a small fleet of MiG-29 jets to support new armored vehicles and other instruments of ground war.

The weapons deal – negotiated this summer by Iraq’s acting Defense Minister, Saadoun al-Dulaimi – will cost Baghdad some $4.2 billion. Luckily, Iraq is about to be flush with cash.

While the details of the arms purchase were under discussion, the International Energy Agency was busily prepping a “landmark” report that hypothesizes Iraq can overtake Russia as the world’s second largest oil supplier (behind the Saudis) by 2030. The Paris-based IGO serves as a statistical aggregator and information hub for the international energy market. They’re particularly bullish on Iraq, the world’s third largest oil-exporter, which “could double its production by the end of the decade, reaching 6.1 million barrels a day by 2020.” That’s up from the 3 million barrels Iraq currently ships by close of business. By 2035, 8.3 million barrels per day is a reality, given infrastructural investment.

It seems mere months ago that international experts and opinion-makers were bemoaning Persian proto-occupation of an Iraqi puppet state…before Syria shook, while sanctions floored the rial and Iranian leadership doubled-down on an isolation posture.

In the energy market, Iraq looks to subsume Iranian market share as a key supplier to Asian markers – particularly China. This will afford a revamped military apparatus, and parochial swagger in absence of Assad.

As I prefaced this summer, there’s budding perspective that an emergent Iraq may surprise as a regional power – and a revived counterbalance to fears of Iranian hegemony:

Iraq’s parliamentary democracy (although fragile) and quietest Shi’a tradition (as embodied by Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani) remain obstacles to the brittle legitimacy of Iran’s titular theocracy.

Toss in military muscle and an evolving economy and influence might be flowing the other direction. Too soon to say, for sure, but recent events are promising for a country that’s suffered instability since the Reagan administration.

 

Author

Reid Smith
Reid Smith

Reid Smith has worked as a research associate specializing on U.S. policy in the Middle East and as a political speechwriter. He is currently a doctoral student and graduate associate with the University of Delaware's Department of Political Science and International Relations. He blogs and writes for The American Spectator.

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