The United States and Iraq have renewed talks over the sale of American F-16 fighter jets and aerial defense systems to Baghdad.
The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that the US is hoping the deal will help reestablish Iraq's regional status and block Iranian influence on neighboring countries.
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Iraq had stalled the purchase of 18 fighter jets following the wave of uprisings in the Arab world, which raised concerns over the country's internal stability. Now, Iraqi officials are considering raising the number of jets to 36 and purchasing aerial defense systems that will include surface-to-air missiles and radar-guided shells.
While these new systems are expected to contribute to Iraq's security and help it deter Iran from flexing its muscles, it will also pose a problem for a potential Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
F-16 jet in Italy (Archive photo: AP)
The Iraqis' decision to renew talks on the issue followed a sharp and unexpected surge in oil revenues.
The Americans, on their part, are hoping a militarily strong Iraq will contribute to Middle East stability and restrain Iranian ambitions.
On the other hand, the close relations between Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliqi's Shiite camp and the Ayatollah regime in the Islamic Republic is also a cause for American concern, adding to the painful memory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
After the fall of the Shah, who was a close American ally, advanced weapons fell into the hands of the new regime.
Officials in Washington have stressed that if such a deal was to be signed, it would include a clause that would ensure the sensitive technology does not spill over to hostile elements.
The sources noted that while it is hard to estimate the value of the sale, the former jet purchase deal, which included 18 aircraft, spare parts, training and airborne weapons was worth an estimated $4.2 billion.
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