By John Lee.
A high-level Iraqi delegation visiting Russia has made quite a stir this week:
- Arms deals worth $4.2 billion were announced, making Russia Iraq's second biggest supplier of arms after the US;
- A memorandum of understanding was signed for political and diplomatic cooperation between the two countries, with Iraq asking Russia’s help to exit Chapter VII;
- Gazprom Neft said it intends to remain active in both Iraqi Kurdistan and southern Iraq;
- The Iraqi government approved LUKoil's exploration of Block 10;
- Relations between Nouri al-Maliki and Vladimir Putin seemed to be very harmonious.
The Iraqi delegation was headed by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, and included the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hoshyar Zebari; Chairman of the Advisers Council at the Cabinet, Dr. Thamer Al Ghadban; Legal Advisor to the Prime Minister, Dr. Fadil Mohammed Jawad; Chairman of the National Investment Commission, Dr. Sami Al Araji; and Iraq’s Ambassador to Russia, Fayek Neroy.
But taking the long view, the closeness between these countries is nothing new, and indeed Putin was keen to point out that "regrettably, we are still quite far from the trade level that had been achieved in 2003"; in other words, under the regime of Saddam Hussein.
While Iraq needs to maintain friendly relations with as wide a range of countries as possible, this rekindling of old relationships has certainly raised some eyebrows in the West.
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