What's Behind the Iraq-China Weapons Deal: Baghdad's decision to buy arms from China has less to do with the Iraqi government's quest for weapons and more to do with its concerns about the direction of U.S. policy.
by Alex Rossmiller
The American Prospect
Governments often send messages with their actions, particularly messages that can't really be delivered directly. A recent, mostly overlooked example of this was Iraq's announcement of a contract with China to buy $100 million worth of light weaponry.
Despite sounding significant, the amount is a relative pittance. Iraq also recently signed deals to buy $1.6 billion in U.S. arms, with another $1.8 billion in possible future purchases, so $100 million in arms is less than 3 percent of weapons deals planned by Baghdad in recent months. The symbolism, however, is tremendous, and for Baghdad to publicly announce the deal accentuates the point. Iraq may be under occupation, but this move is a reminder that there are other patrons available, benefactors who would be very happy to curry favor (and perhaps eventual oil contracts) by supplying military might. The central government in Baghdad, weak and under siege as it may be, still has plenty of oil money and, despite an apparently permanent occupation and no end of political manipulation by the United States, has the ability to act independently.
This small assertion of independence -- involving the only nation with an economy and military to rival the United States, no less -- reflects increasing Iraqi dissatisfaction with United States policy. The Shia-dominated Maliki government is profoundly concerned about the recent U.S. strategy of arming Sunnis, ostensibly against al-Qaeda, in Iraq's western, Sunni-controlled Anbar province. Shia leaders have warned against this program, complaining that arming and training "former" insurgents serves to arm a dissatisfied and rebellious anti-government force.
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