Arms from the Soviet Union
From 1972 to 1979, the percentage of Iraq's military equipment supplied by the Soviet Union declined from 95 to 63 percent. Even so, in 1987 the Soviet Union, having provided more than US$8 billion worth of weapons since 1980, was Iraq's most important arms supplier. In its 1987 annual study, Soviet Military Power, the United States Department of Defense stated that, while maintaining official neutrality in the IranIraq War, the Soviet Union had provided extensive military assistance to Iraq, and at the same time, continued its efforts to gain leverage on Iran. In early 1987, Moscow delivered a squadron of twenty-four MiG-29 Fulcrums to Baghdad. Considered the most advanced fighter in the Soviet arsenal, the MiG-29 previously had been provided only to Syria and India. The decision to export the MiG-29 to Iraq, also assured Iraq a more advantageous payment schedule than any offered by the West and it reflected Soviet support for one of its traditional allies in the Middle East. Caught in a financial crisis, Baghdad welcomed the low-interest loans Moscow extended for this equipment.
Although the Soviets might not receive payments for several years, the sale of military hardware remained a critical source of revenue for them, and they have tried to retain Iraq as a customer. In May 1987, for example, the Soviets provided Iraq with better financial terms in a successful effort to prevent Iraq from buying sixty French Mirage 2000 fighters for an estimated US$3 billion. An additional US$3 billion in sales of helicopters and radar equipment may also have been denied to the French, although it was not possible to determine whether the Soviets agreed to fulfill both requirements. In early 1988, Iraq owed the Soviet Union between US$8 billion and US$10 billion in military debts alone.
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