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Friday, December 30, 2011

US selling $11 billion in advanced weapons to Iraq

The United States plans to sell $11 billion worth of advanced weaponry to Iraq, despite the risk that Iraq's army will become a Shiite militia that is loyal to Iran.
In 2010, the U.S. and Iraq signed an agreement that required the Sunni bloc in parliament to have a say in who runs the defense and interior ministries. But despite Maliki’s pledge, the ministries remain under his control.

“It is very risky to arm a sectarian army,” Rafe al-Essawi, the country’s finance minister and a leading Sunni politician, told the newspaper. “It is very risky with all the sacrifices we’ve made, with all the budget to be spent, with all the support of America — at the end of the day, the result will be a formal militia army,” al-Essawi added.

Like any other U.S. arms deals in the Middle East, the Iraqi-U.S. deal is to counter the Iranian threat, but according to the newspaper, “there are also fears that the move could backfire if the Baghdad government ultimately aligns more closely with the Shiite theocracy in Tehran than with Washington.”

Joost Hiltermann, the International Crisis Group’s deputy program director for the Middle East, told the newspaper that “Washington took the decision to build up Iraq as a counterweight to Iran through close military cooperation and the sale of major weapon systems.”

But Hiltermann added that “Maliki has shown a troubling inclination toward enhancing his control over the country’s institutions without accepting any significant checks and balances.”
The weapons being sold to Iraq include F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks, cannons and armored personnel carriers, and body armor, helmets, ammunition trailers and sport utility vehicles, which critics say can be used by domestic security services to help Maliki consolidate power.

What could go wrong?

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