Nouri al-Maliki seems to have had a very expensive change of heart, at least for Russia. The Iraqi prime minister abruptly canceled a $4.2 billion arms deal agreed to last month that would have made Moscow the nation's No. 2 arms supplier behind the US, reports AFP. A Maliki spokesman says the prime minister got wind of "corruption" and kickbacks related to the deal, but AFP's Moscow source thinks the US pressured Baghdad into scrapping it.
The BBC quotes the head of the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade, and he agrees: "As soon as the deal was announced a month ago I said that the US would not allow Iraq to buy such huge quantities of weapons from Russia. I believe Washington regarded this as an absolutely unacceptable scenario," he said, adding that Maliki's corruption allegations were a "smokescreen." The deal involved attack helicopters and surface-to-air missile systems. (Read more Iraq stories.)