Since July, the Pentagon has sent authorization requests to the U.S. Congress for $14 billion in sales of military equipment to Iraq. The U.S. Arms Export Control Act requires the U.S. President to alert Congress at least 30 days before final government-to-government arms contracts are signed.
The military equipment, spare parts and maintenance contracts fall largely into two categories: air defense and counterinsurgency.
According to Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), “Iraq is moving back to a primary state of civil war, and its internal focus is coming back to counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. The real world problems in Iraq are very much dominated by internal security,” he told Defense News. The Iraqi government has seen an escalating Sunni insurgency from Al Qaeda and allied jihadist groups.
To address the mounting insurgency threat, the U.S. would deliver 50 Stryker infantry carriers, 12 helicopters, and spare parts for thousands of American-made military vehicles, including M88A1 recovery vehicles, M88A2 Hercules, M113 infantry carriers and Humvees. Additionally, the U.S. will provide maintenance services under a $750 million five-year contract for the fleet of counterinsurgency vehicles. The maintenance contract was pushed strongly by Gen. Robert Caslen, who recently left his position as head of the Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq to become Superintendant of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
The Stryker infantry carriers, which are biological- and chemical-weapon resistant, are ideally suited for Iraq’s mixed terrain, allowing for high-speed troop movements. Iraq’s 336 main battle tanks represent a substantial force, and in the coming months, Iraq’s Air Force will begin to take delivery of the first of 36 U.S. F-16 fighter jets, which were all ordered prior to the recent $14 billion arms deals.
According to Lukman Faily, Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States, about $10 billion of the pending arms sales involve new air defense systems. On Aug. 5, the Pentagon announced a $2.4 billion air defense sale of 681 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 40 truck-mounted launchers, Sentinel radar systems, and three Hawk anti-aircraft batteries with 216 Hawk missiles. An even larger air defense deal is still awaiting Congressional approval.
The Obama Administration has been pressuring Iraq to halt Iranian weapons shipments to Syria, and the air-defense sales are in response to Iraq’s complaint that, since the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, Iraq has no credible air defense system. Without such a system, Faily emphasized, Iraq has no ability to stop Iranian cargo planes from crossing Iraq’s air space.
On Nov. 1, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will meet with President Obama in Washington, and the primary topic of discussion will be the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement.