Iraq has bought used fighter jets from Russia and Belarus to battle Islamist militants after long delays in the delivery of F-16 planes from the U.S. left troops without air support, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.

Maliki, in an interview with BBC Arabic yesterday, blamed the U.S.’s “long, very slow way” for delaying the delivery of 36 aircraft. “We shouldn’t have just bought U.S. jets, we should have bought British, French and Russian jets to provide air support. If we had air support, none of this would have happened,” he said, according to excerpts e-mailed by the BBC.

The U.S is delivering the first F-16 aircraft “as quickly as possible” and has said all along that they’ll be handed over in the fall, Army Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters inWashington yesterday. He also said that the remaining 200 of 500 Hellfire missiles approved for delivery to Iraq will be sent in the coming weeks. […]