The news that Iraq is buying American-made drones for protecting its oil facilities was reported earlier this month by a few publications.For some reason, it didn’t really make much of a splash. But it’s an important story.
The U.S. military presence in Iraq came to an end last December; American troops returned home, and equipment started to get shipped back.
Now, just five months after the war’s end — and only a month after the last vehicle from Iraq arrived stateside — officials confirm that U.S. weapons systems will once again be operating in Iraq. American-made drones in particularly will be operated by the Iraqis to protect high-value oil facilities:
Army Lt. Gen. Robert Caslen — who heads the Iraq branch of the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation — told USA Today that the Iraqi government is taking the protection of its oil exports seriously. His office manages U.S. military sales programs in the Iraq.
“They understand the importance of the mission to protect its oil platforms,” he said.
Although the office wouldn’t confirm the model or quantity of drones sold, a State Department official revealed to The Hill’s defence Blog that the contract calls for twelve of the U.S. Navy’s Scan Eagle aerial drones.
Carlo Munoz points out that Iraq is joining a number of countries interested in using American drone technology to boost their own national security.
We’ve written about the Boeing Scan Eagle before — it was used extensively by U.S. Marines in Iraq, racking up roughly half a million combat hours as a reconnaissance drone since 2002. This time, however, the drone will be wielded by the Iraqis:
The Scan Eagles will be used to monitor oil platforms, known as offshore export terminals in the Persian Gulf, according to U.S. officials from the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq.
The terminals are used to move millions of barrels of Iraqi crude oil from the country’s inland oilfields to commercial tanker ships in the Persian Gulf.
The new drones are expected to be operational by the end of this year.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
“[The oil platform] helped push exports to their highest level since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion at 2.317 million barrels per day in March.”
“According to the energy police plans, we intend to use the drones by the end of this year,” head of the energy protection force, Major General Hamid Ibrahim told Reuters. “We are in the process of training engineers.”
USA Today also reports Iraq has previously bought “more than $15 billion worth of U.S. military hardware, including 36 F-16 fighter planes, M-1 tanks and armoured personnel carriers.” The Iraq government iterates the weapons are for defensive purpose. And with oil production like Iraq’s, it’s no wonder it has sought the help of the U.S. — the manufacturers of some of the most advanced military technology.
But the two countries’ cooperation also highlights an important part of this story: it strengthens a very strategic post-war relationship.
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