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Rafale Jets: IQAF Wants To Buy French Rafale Fighters By Paying In Oil; Aims To Counter Turkish F-16s

Iraq’s Foreign Ministry has filed a complaint to the UN Security Council, requesting an urgent session regarding the recent bombardment of a tourist resort in Iraqi Kurdistan on July 20 that Baghdad blames on Turkey.

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The attack on the resort in the mountain village of Parakh, in the Zakho district of Duhok province, claimed the lives of at least nine people, with more than 20 others injured.

The Iraqi government has accused the Turkish military of the attack, as Turkey, which has several bases in northern Iraq, regularly conducts attacks on the militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been waging an insurgency against the government in Ankara since 1984, from its hideouts in Iraq’s mountainous north.

A senior Iraqi official reportedly told Middle East Eye (MEE) that 155mm artillery shells have been collected that suggest a Turkish Panter howitzer was used for strikes.

“The attack was launched by 155mm artillery shells. The resort is 10km from the Turkish border, and the attack was launched by a Turkish artillery force stationed inside Turkish territory,” a senior Iraqi official was cited by MEE as saying.

“No armed faction operating inside Iraq has this kind of cannon, but it is an essential part of the armament of the Turkish army,” the official added.

Ankara denied the Iraqi government’s allegations and blamed the PKK for having conducted the attack.

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“Turkey is ready to take every step for the truth to come out,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement, calling on the Iraqi government to “not make remarks influenced by the heinous terrorist organization’s rhetoric and propaganda, and to engage in cooperation to uncover the perpetrators of this cruel act.”

An F-16 Fighting Falcon of the Turkish Air Force. (Wikimedia Commons)

Tensions Between Turkey And Iraq

While in the past, several attacks by Turkish forces targeting the PKK in northern Iraq have resulted in civilian casualties, this is reportedly the first time that tourists from outside the region have been killed.

The recent incident has led to outrage among Iraqi people who have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the attack, adding to the tensions between Iraq and Turkey.

The Iraqi government long has been calling for the withdrawal of Turkish forces out of its territory, but for that to happen, Ankara “might require the Iraqi government to expel the PKK,” according to Shivan Fazil of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Fazil doubts whether the government in Baghdad has the capacity to meet Ankara’s demands.

While the recent attack was allegedly carried out using 155mm artillery, Turkey also employs its fighter jets and drones to conduct strikes against the PKK militants.

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Israel has also carried out airstrikes against Iran-backed militias in Iraq. Israeli fighter jets are known to use Iraqi airspace for Iran-allied militias in the eastern Syrian region.

Perhaps, it is the frustration of the Iraqi government by these frequent attacks and intrusions into Iraqi airspace by foreign fighter jets that have possibly led the Iraqi Air Force (IQAF) to seek Rafale fighter jets from France.

Iraqi Air Force Looking To Buy 14 French Rafales 

In February, a geopolitical consultant and a former advisor to Iraq’s interior minister and the secretary general of Iraq’s defense ministry, Norman Ricklefs, told Defense News that the IQAF intends to purchase 14 French Rafale fighter jets at the cost of $240 million, which will be paid in oil rather than cash.

Paul Iddon, a journalist based in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan, suggests Iraq may be planning to acquire Rafales to serve primarily as interceptors.

A Rafale armed with various munitions. (Dassault Aviation image)

The IQAF already has 34 American-made F-16s, which even the Air Forces of Turkey and Israeli possess but the Iraqi F-16s, unlike their Turkish and Israeli counterparts, are only armed with short-range AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles, and not the long-range AIM-120 AMRAAM.

Considering the IQAF’s operations are focussed on targeting the Islamic State (ISIS) militants across Iraq, there is not much need of long-range air-to-air capability for the IQAF, unless it wants to intercept the Israeli and Turkish aircraft.

According to Iddon, France will most probably be prepared to sell Rafales, considering it had sold a large fleet of Mirage F1s in the 1970s and 1980s, plus in 2011 it had offered to sell 18 more after all the previous Mirage fighter jets were destroyed during the American invasion of Iraq to bring down the Saddam Hussein regime.

These 14 Rafales could come armed with Meteor beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM), developed and manufactured by MBDA, which is similar to the American-made AIM-120 missile.

Iddon notes, however, that the US and Israel could oppose Iraq’s acquisition of the Meteor missile, similar to the sale of Rafales to Egypt in 2010 when both countries pressured France to downgrade the air-to-air missile for Cairo to the 80 km MICA missile instead of the 100 km Meteor missile.

Turkey might also object to such a sale, as Rafales armed with BVR missiles could allow the IQAF to intercept Turkish F-16s and UAVs that frequently carry out strikes against PKK militants.

In fact, Ankara has a good reason to oppose such a deal because, in 1983, an Iraqi Mirage F1 had knocked down a Turkish F-100F Super Sabre using a Super 530F-1 missile.

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