Iraq's Less-Than-Reliable Military Is Getting Hundreds Of American Tanks And Armoured Vehicles

Egypt U.S. army tanks abramsREUTERS/US NAVY/PH1 William F. GowdyA US Army M1A1 Abrams tank rolls across the Egyptian desert on Oct. 25, 2001.

Iraq is getting a lot more American armour.

According to Defence News, the US donated $US300 million in military equipment to Iraq in 2014, and will deliver 6 M1 Abrams tanks and 50 humvees to the Baghdad government at no cost.

And in late December, Defence News also reported that the US State Department authorised Iraq to purchase 175 M1 Abrams tanks and other vehicles from the United States, stocking up on an asset that has already proven useful for US allies across the region.

The State Department approved the $US2.4 billion deal in late December “to facilitate progress towards increasing [Iraq’s] ability to quickly mobilize and defend its border.”

Over the past two weeks, the US has also delivered 250 MRAPs to Iraq, the mine-resistant ambush-protected vehicles that replaced the under-protected humvee during the course of the American-led war in Iraq last decade.

The Iraqi army has a poor recent record of allowing US-supplied weaponry to fall into the wrong hands. US-supplied firearms and vehicles were seized from the Iraqi military when ISIS blitzed through northern and western Iraq in June.

And at least 40 units of the M1 Abrams have been lost “to enemy action or panic” in Iraq intelligence commentator Matthew Aid wrote, likely referring to the wave of desertion that swept the Iraqi army as ISIS swept through the country. Indeed, four of the country’s fourteen army divisions — representing roughly 30,000 troops — disbanded during the ISIS offensive last June.

That month, an unnamed member of the Obama Administration told The New York Times that 28 Abrams tanks were damaged and five “sustained full armour penetration by antitank guided missiles” in the first half of 2014, which culminated in ISIS’s capture of Mosul.

At the height of the US-led war in 2008, Iraq ordered 140 such tanks, 60 tank transporters, and 21 armoured recovery vehicles capable of towing large military vehicles. They received the order in 2010.

In 2009, the year between order and delivery, the US-based Abrams factory was operating at its peak, putting out two or three refurbished tanks daily. Today the military is doubtful of the need to keep producing or fixing up battle tanks suited for conventional warfare, according to The Washington Post. This time last year, the Abrams factory was down to 500 employees, from a peak of 1,220.

But aid wrote that other American allies operating the tank — Egypt, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia — are “quietly pleased” with the tank’s abilities. “Iraqi army officers have spoken to fellow Arab officers who have used the M-1, and were told this was the way to go.”

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