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State Dept. Scrambles to Address Evidence Iraq Violating Iran Arms Trade Ban

State Department officials found themselves on the defensive Monday, after an expose published by Reuters revealed that Iraq has signed a $195 million arms deal with Iran for the delivery of weapons to Iraq. Baghdad sources told the outlet that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki had been moved to seek arms from the Islamic Republic – in violation of a broad range of international measures up to and including an explicit United Nations ban on arms sales by Iran – after he became ‘fed up with delays in U.S. arms deliveries.’

A spokesman for the Iraqi prime minister would not confirm or deny the sale, but said such a deal would be understandable given Iraq’s current security troubles. “We are launching a war against terrorism and we want to win this war. Nothing prevents us from buying arms and ammunition from any party and it’s only ammunition helping us to fight terrorists,” said the spokesman, Ali Mussawi.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki defended the administration, insisting both that Washington was keeping Iraq adequately armed and that it “would raise serious concerns” if the Reuters report turned out to be correct.

“Any transfer of arms from Iran to a third country is in direct violation of UNSCR 1747. We are seeking clarification on the matter from the government of Iraq and to ensure that Iraqi officials understand the limits that international law places on arms trade with Iran,” Psaki said, referring to the U.N. resolution that imposed an arms embargo on Iran.

The Reuters report cited multiple officials and included an account of documents seen by the outlet’s journalists describing the deal. If confirmed the development is likely to deepen criticism, heard both domestically and from Washington’s Gulf allies, that the Obama administration is withdrawing from the Middle East and allowing Iran to fill in. A recent Politico article, headlined “Who Lost Iraq?” and authored by former Council of Foreign Relations (CFR) fellow Ned Parker, opened with an Iraqi official blaming the U.S. for creating a security vacuum in the country. A New York Times article published around the same time by Michael Doran and Max Boot – respectively a Brookings Institute fellow and a CFR fellow blasted the administration for not sufficiently “countering Iranian machinations” in among other countries Iraq.

[Photo: RT / YouTube]