Iraq defence minister heads to Moscow with wish list

Iraqi Defence Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi attends the Baghdad International Fair for Defence and Security in the Iraqi capital on March 1, 2014 (AFP Photo/Sabah Arar)

Baghdad (AFP) - Iraq's defence minister flew to Moscow on Wednesday to ask his counterpart for military equipment, as his forces struggle to hold off a jihadist-led Sunni militant offensive, a spokesman said.

"Defence Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi left Baghdad for Moscow," Staff Lieutenant General Mohammed al-Askari told AFP.

He said the minister was carrying a letter from Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to Russian President Vladimir Putin "explaining the security and political situation in Iraq and the need to strengthen military cooperation".

"Dulaimi will meet the Russian defence minister and other officials to urge them to provide Iraq with weapons, equipment and modern military aircraft," Askari said.

Despite the billions of dollars spent on training and equipment by the United States during its eight-year occupation, Iraq's million-strong army completely folded when insurgents attacked last month.

Within days, the Islamic State jihadist group and allied Sunni factions conquered Iraq's second city of Mosul and large swathes of the north and west.

The front lines have since stabilised and Baghdad has already received intelligence assistance from Washington and Sukhoi warplanes from Russia and Iran.

Shiite militias with ties to Tehran have also joined the armed forces on the battlefield, in some cases even taking the lead.

But Baghdad has yet to claim a significant victory over the jihadists and the government has complained that its pleas for foreign help were going unheeded.