Iraq recovers missing air force

One of the stranger stories of the weekend was Iraq’s announcement that it was negotiating the return of 19 Mig fighter jets that had been sent to Serbia for maintenance in the late 1980s and never returned: Sanctions slapped on Iraq because of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 would have made it impossible to ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
581578_090831_mig2.jpg
581578_090831_mig2.jpg

One of the stranger stories of the weekend was Iraq's announcement that it was negotiating the return of 19 Mig fighter jets that had been sent to Serbia for maintenance in the late 1980s and never returned:

Sanctions slapped on Iraq because of Saddam's invasion of Kuwait in 1990 would have made it impossible to bring the MiG-21 and MiG-23 jet fighters back while he was in power.

One of the stranger stories of the weekend was Iraq’s announcement that it was negotiating the return of 19 Mig fighter jets that had been sent to Serbia for maintenance in the late 1980s and never returned:

Sanctions slapped on Iraq because of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 would have made it impossible to bring the MiG-21 and MiG-23 jet fighters back while he was in power.

Two of the jets were ready for “immediate use”, the statement said, and a preliminary agreement had been reached with the Serbian government to repair the others and send them back.

The statement did not say when the existence of the fighters had come to light

During his visit to Iraq earlier this month, Serbia’s Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac told Iraqi officials about the existence of the jets, said a senior Serbian Defense official who did not want to be quoted by name.

“None are in flyable condition, they are dismantled and in crates. Only one MiG 23 that was displayed in (Belgrade’s) air force museum is whole,” he said. 

This is welcome news for Iraq, which has been looking to build up its air defences, but something seems very off about this. Slobodan Milosevic has been out of power since 2000 and Saddam Hussein since 2003, yet only now has anyone mentioned these planes?

I’m no expert, but given that (according to Wikipedia, at least) Serbia only has about 40 MiGs of its own, it seems like the 19 they were keeping in storage would be kind of hard to miss. 

Also, since when was Milosevic that concerned about violating international sanctions?

Photo: Dmitry A. Mmottl under a creative commons license.

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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