The NY Times reports this morning that 19 Soviet-made MiG fighter planes belonging to the Iraqi air force have been discovered in Serbia. This seems to have caught the US completely by surprise. I'll be very curious to see what happens now, on a couple of fronts:
1. This likely will resurrect the insistence by Cheney/Limbaugh wing-nuts that if the US could be kept in the dark about big fighter-planes, then maybe Saddam's WMDs are still out there, after all. ( I've got too much on my plate right now to be monitoring talk radio and/or Fox News, but if anyone hears such rumblings bubbling up, I'd love to get a heads-up.)
2. As I posted about a few days ago, the US is working on providing for both Iraq and Afghanistan some new trainer-planes with which to re-develop their air forces, with baby steps. (Actually, the planes look like they're about one stage beyond made-by-Mattel, but they will be able to carry a couple of bombs and also provide ground support.) Now, Iraq suddenly owns some reasonably formidable jet aircraft (MiGs are no joke), although they're lacking the support structure to service them.
That, however, could be acquired via some deal with Russia, as could pilots for those planes. I can't imagine that Mr. al-Maliki is simply going to be content to let those planes sit, or to allow the US to dictate to Iraq (which is supposed to be a "sovereign nation" now) what to do with them. They could quickly become a rallying point for Iraqi-nationalist pride.
They are also the last thing that Israel wanted to see. Despite the US occupation and influence in Iraq, there is still no love lost between Iraq and Israel. The elimination of Saddam's regime, and of an Iraqi military with any offensive capability, made the 2003 invasion a real plus as far as the Israelis were concerned. 19 MiGs may not change the calculus completely, but you can be sure that they have the IDF's attention, and that the Israeli government will be pressuring Obama to keep those MiGs out of Iraq.
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