ANKARA: Relations between Turkey and Iraq are evolving with an increase in military purchases between the two nations.
Iraq recently announced its willingness to buy a multimillion-dollar arms package from Turkey, including armed drones, attack helicopters, electronic warfare systems and advanced weaponry.
Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad announced Baghdad’s request to Turkey during a speech at a local television station on Aug. 30, and added an agreement had been reached for the purchase of TB2 Bayraktar armed drones.
Ankara says the deal has not yet been finalized, and negotiations are still ongoing because the sale of the helicopters requires an export permit from the US, as they use engines manufactured by a joint venture between American and British companies.
The arms package is expected to boost the Iraq’s military readiness in the fight against Daesh. It is also likely to strengthen the political ties between the two states that have been developing since Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi assumed office last year.
“If Iraq is unstable, the whole area will not achieve stability. We will keep supporting Baghdad to achieve stability,” said Turkey’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mevlut Cavusoglu during the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership on Aug. 28.
Turkey recently began exporting advanced weaponry to several countries including Poland, the Philippines and Azerbaijan.
During the International Defense Industry Fair 2021 held in Istanbul on Aug. 19, Inad met his Turkish counterpart Hulusi Akar.
Ismail Demir, head of Turkish Defense Industries, also signed an agreement with his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed Saheb Al-Daraji in Istanbul last week for the sale of defense articles and the exchange of technical knowledge.
“Unmanned aerial vehicles and armed drones manufactured by Turkey were tested both in Turkey and in other conflict areas. Whether it’s the payload they carry or their visibility and targeting rates, the drones performed very well. They produced very effective results especially against armed groups and terrorist organizations using unconventional methods,” Erol Bural, head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Defense Against Terrorism and Radicalization, or TERAM, told Arab News.
According to Bural, the Turkish-made defense equipment has also proven its capability for monitoring fields from the air whilst firing at the same time.
“For this reason, Iraq wants to control both its borders and conflict areas as well as potential conflict areas using the same method and system,” he said.
“Every country wants to have such sophisticated weapons systems in its inventory. If the countries do not produce these systems themselves, they want to diversify their resources as much as possible by buying the same system or equipment from different countries. I think Iraq does not want to be dependent on one country to diversify its UAV systems,” Bural said.
Experts also note the importance of being an “exporter country” in the defense industry.
“The fact that Iraq has such technological systems to ensure its own domestic and border security will also contribute to Turkey’s security itself,” Bural said.
Tuna Aygun, an Iraq expert at Ankara-based think-tank ORSAM, agrees.
“Increasing Iraqi defense capacity is important especially in terms of establishing federal control over gray areas such as Sinjar and borderlines,” he told Arab News.
“The shared disapproval of the independence referendum by northern Iraq in 2017 helped Ankara and Baghdad in cultivating close ties. To what extent the purchase of this new defense equipment, especially armed drones, will be used against terror threats in the region will determine the areas of cooperation between the two countries.”
Aygun also noted that the prospective defense deal between Ankara and Baghdad might come with a logistics and training package, which will bring the two countries even closer.
Turkey has become the world’s fourth-largest drone producer, with the flight automation and performance of Bayraktar drones standing out as the world’s most advanced system in its category.
The presence of Daesh and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party on Iraqi soil has been a source of dispute for Ankara. Turkey’s Ambassador to Iraq Ali Riza Guney said at a forum in Baghdad on Monday that Turkey will continue to support Iraq’s sovereignty, stability and security against the two groups.