A high-ranking Iraqi official on Sunday said security agencies have uncovered a secret weapons deal between the autonomous Kurdistan region and an unnamed foreign country.
“Iraqi security agencies (discovered) a secret weapons deal between the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, Massud Barzani, and a foreign country,” the security official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“The weapons include anti-armour and anti-aircraft missiles, and a large number of heavy weapons,” the official said, without specifying the exact weapons systems.
The official said Iraqi authorities have obtained “all the documents” pertaining to the deal, which is for “weapons of a Russian type made in 2004,” and are trying to block it.
“This step is a breach of the law and the Iraqi constitution, because the only side that can (buy arms) is the federal ministry of defence,” the official said.
Several Kurdish officials either declined to comment on the allegation or could not immediately be reached by AFP.
For its part Baghdad has ordered 36 F-16 warplanes from the United States, and has already fielded M1 Abrams tanks.
Barzani expressed concern over the F-16s earlier this year, saying he was opposed to the sale of these warplanes while Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki was in office, fearing they would be used against Kurdistan.
On July 17th, Umeed Sabah, spokesman for the Kurdistan region presidency also said in a statement that Maliki had “plans for the militarisation of Iraqi society and supports the option of violence as a means to reach political aims.”
Relations between Baghdad and Kurdistan are at a low ebb over multiple festering disputes.
The two sides are at odds over Kurdistan’s refusal to seek approval from the central government for oil contracts it has awarded to foreign firms, and over a swathe of disputed territory in north Iraq.
Barzani has also supported efforts to pass a no-confidence motion against Maliki.
And on Wednesday local Kurdish peshmerga security forces prevented soldiers sent by Baghdad from reaching a disputed north Iraq area that borders Syria, a top Kurdish security official said.