Iraq announces it has ordered Rafale planes and artillery systems from France

As the country still faces an intense rebellion by the Islamic State, as Shia militias under Iranian control continue to grow in its territory, and as Turkish ambitions in the north of the country threaten the Kurdish regions, Iraq is trying to modernize its armed forces, by negotiating defense programs with its historical partners, the United States, Russia and France. However, as is very often the case with Baghdad, it is very difficult to see clearly in the announcements of the Iraqi authorities, which are not lacking in contradictions or even very improbable information, such as that mentioned at the start of this year relating to the sale of 14 French Rafales for an amount of $240 million, a price totally unrelated to those practiced by Dassault aviation and Paris on the international scene, including for second-hand aircraft.

However, on May 8, the Iraqi Ministry of Defense announced very officially that it had signed several defense contracts with France and the United States. Washington would thus have agreed to deliver to Baghdad new artillery systems as well as anti-aircraft defense systems intended to provide protection against threats such as cruise missiles, rockets and artillery and mortar shells or C-RAM , ammunition used on several occasions by IS fighters but also by certain Shiite militias to strike Iraqi civilian and military infrastructure, in particular those housing American personnel. The exact models that would have been acquired have not been revealed, but in the C-RAM field, the US forces only implement the NASAMS short-range anti-aircraft system, and the land version of the famous CIWS Phalanx, this last protecting in particular the US embassy in Baghdad. The vagueness is also appropriate concerning the American artillery systems which would have been acquired, these being self-propelled guns of 155 mm M109, light howitzers of 155 mm M777 or the highly publicized HIMARS rocket launcher.

The Centurion C-RAM system is used to protect the American Embassy in Baghdad from threats such as rockets and artillery and mortar shells

Things are hardly clearer with Paris, especially since the French authorities are also very discreet on the subject. Thus, it seems that Baghdad intends to order a squadron of Rafale combat aircraft to modernize its air forces, as this has been discussed for several months in the specialized press. The French aircraft, already in service in Greece and Egypt, and ordered by the UAE, is indeed a major asset in deterring Tehran or Ankara from too daring maneuvers in Iraqi airspace, while being very effective in support troops engaged on the ground in counter-insurgency combat against Daesh. However, the device is far from being given, even in a second-hand hypothesis, Croatia, for example, having acquired 12 second-hand aircraft for €1 billion, very far from the $240m for 14 Rafale mentioned by Baghdad. In addition, the operational and industrial pressure of the moment make it very unlikely that France will be able to part with 14 second-hand aircraft in the years to come, unless it puts its own defensive and operational capabilities at risk beyond reason.

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