Our guest blogger is Peter Juul, a Research Associate at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
In 2008, the Iraqi government went on a military spending spree, signaling its intent to buy large quantities of advanced weapons from the United States — including F-16 fighters and M1 tanks. In 2009, it’s preparing to go further, with Defense News reporting the potential purchase and refurbishment in the United States of 2,000 T-72 tanks. These potential arms deals are worth over $16.6 billion, and if fully realized will mark the re-emergence of Iraq as a major regional military power. While debates over the nature and pace of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq (as mandated by last years Status of Forces Agreement) have taken up the space allocated to Iraq in our national political discourse, relatively little attention has been paid to the plans for the rearmament of Iraq’s conventional military.
Assuming all the pending arms deals go through, by 2011 Iraq will be stronger in conventional military terms than at any point since before the First Gulf War in 1991. Its land forces will have much improved armor capability, though this capability is offset by a lack of artillery. Iraq’s air force will possess a similar number of modern combat aircraft as it did in 1991, but will have no second- and third-line combat aircraft beyond light attack aircraft. Its naval situation will remain relatively unchanged. In sum, by 2011, Iraq will have regained its place as a major conventional military power thanks to U.S. arms sales and military assistance.
These sales (and associated training by U.S. military personnel) will substantially alter the security architecture of the Middle East. Iraq’s neighbors, which have grown accustomed to a weak Iraq over the past two decades, may (depending on internal Iraqi politics) have to deal with an increasingly assertive and confident Iraq in regional politics. While it’s unlikely Iraq will engage in any overseas adventures in the future, it is likely that Iraq will no longer allow itself to be ignored or pushed around by other regional powers. If Iraq manages to achieve a modicum of internal political stability in the near future – democractically or not – it will have the military muscle to back up claims to a greater role in the region.
Here are some of the deals signaled or cut by the Iraqi government over the past year:
- 36 F-16C Fighting Falcons – ~$3.6 billion
- 24 Armed Bell 407 helicopters (with associated equipment and armament) – $366 million
- 20 T-6 Texan trainers (with associated equipment) – $210 million
- 36 AT-6B Texan light attack aircraft (with associated equipment) – $520 million
- 6 King Air 350 intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft – $10.5 million
- 24 EC 635 light helicopters – unknown cost
- 2,000 Upgraded T-72 tanks – $6 billion
- 140 M1A1M Abrams tanks – $1.4 billion
- 156 Humvee variants – part of $2.16 billion package including M1 tanks
36 M113 armored personnel carrier variants – part of $2.16 billion including M1s
- 400 Strykers – part of $1.11 billion light armored vehicle deal
- 400 M1117 Armored Security Vehicles – part of $1.11 billion light armored vehicle deal
105,000 M16A4 and M4 rifles – $148 million
- 2,550 M203 grenade launchers – part of $148 million M16/M4 rifle package
- 20 – part of $1.01 billion ship deal
- 3 Offshore Support Vessels – part of $1.01 billion ship deal
Total estimated cost: $16.634 billion (~$10.5 billion in direct military purchases from U.S. manufacturers, with $6 billion in refurbishment contracts.) Read more