Iraq to Get First F-16s early-2014; KRG Concerned

Iraq's the deputy head of the parliamentary security and defence committee, Iskander Witwit, has told Reuters that Iraq will take delivery of the first 24 of 36 F-16 fighter jets it has ordered from the United States at the beginning of 2014.

He said the first 24 planes would make up two air force squadron, and Iraq would be in the market for more planes in the future.

"Iraq intends to have equipment which is more developed than neighboring countries have. Small neighboring countries like Kuwait even have five squadrons," Witwit said.

The announcement has increased tensions between Erbil an Baghdad. According to AFP, Massud Barzani, the president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan, said he opposes the sale of F-16 warplanes to Iraq while Nuri al-Maliki is premier, as he fears they would be used against the region.

"The F-16 must not reach the hand of this man [Maliki]," Barzani said. Placing some hope in the region's relationship with ExxonMobil, he added: "If ExxonMobil came, it would be equal to 10 American military divisions ... they will defend the area if their interests are there."

(Sources: Reuters, AFP)

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