Arming Iraq is a Mistake

April 12, 2012 10:56 am 0 comments

Prime Minister of Iraq Nuri al-Maliki listens to an opening speech during the Sarafiya bridge opening in Kadhimiya, Iraq. Photo: wiki commons.

As Tehran became increasingly frustrated with Turkey earlier in the week, and Iran was looking for alternative locations, besides Istanbul, to hold its nuclear talks with the West, one of the options that came up was Baghdad. It appears that since the U.S. completed the withdrawal of troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, Iran has grown increasingly comfortable, in the diplomatic sense, in the Iraqi capital. There are multiple signs indicating that Iraq is increasingly becoming a satellite state of Iran.

To begin with, there is a considerable Iranian military presence within Iraq, which commands significant political influence. In January 2012, the commander of the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, General Qassem Sulemani, was widely quoted by the Arab press as boasting that Iran today is in control of Southern Lebanon as well as Iraq. Dr. Amal al-Hazani, a professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, wrote in al-Sharq al-Awsat on January 28, 2012, that “even Sunni politicians in Iraq confessed meekly that the Quds Force is the absolute master of Iraqi affairs.”

If that is the present state of affairs, then U.S. plans to build up the new Iraqi Air Force are particularly troubling. A senior IDF officer told Yaakov Katz, the Jerusalem Post’s military correspondent and defense analyst, that Israel is increasingly concerned with intelligence reports that the Revolutionary Guards are solidifying their presence in Iraq. The context of the Israeli concern is the Obama administration’s decision to go ahead with the sale of 36 advanced F-16 Block 52 fighters, which have the same capabilities as the F-16 fighter jets sold to Israel. Iraq is expected to need a total of six fighter squadrons to defend its airspace, which could lead to a force of up to 96 aircraft.

At this time, the commander of the Iraqi Air Force doesn’t expect the F-16s to be operational until 2015, but Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Malaki, is pressing for accelerated delivery by 2013. There are reports that the Iraqi F-16 weapons systems, like its air-to-air missiles, will have “slight downgrades,” but these can be easily fixed. With the Iranian penetration of Iraq continuing, no one should be surprised if there are reports in the future that Iranian pilots are inspecting the Iraqi F-16s in order to develop their own countermeasures to Western aircraft and weapons systems. If the administration is equipping Iraq to be a counterweight to Iran, then somebody in Washington is making a big mistake.

Arms sales to the Iraqi Air Force present a difficult dilemma for the U.S. On the one hand, arms sales are one of the oldest methods employed by the U.S. to develop pro-American attitudes among the officer corps of Arab military establishments. Early this year, Iraqi pilots arrived at an airbase in Tucson, Arizona to begin learning how to fly the F-16. They will develop relationships with their American trainers. Today in Egypt, with the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood, the time the U.S. has invested in training, equipping and exercising with the Egyptian Army undoubtedly has helped preserve its pro-Western orientation.

On the other hand, building close ties with the officers of Arab air forces does not guarantee the political orientation of their country in the future. In Iran, after the fall of the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini purged the officer corps of the Iranian armed forces. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the arrest of dozens of Turkish officers who he suspects might plot a coup against his Islamist government. In Iraq, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards are right there on the ground, while the U.S. is thousands of miles away with only an embassy, which has been reduced in size, in Baghdad.

Israel is not the only country which should be raising its eyebrows at the prospect of a U.S.-equipped Iraqi Air Force emerging in the years ahead. Saudi Arabia should also be concerned with the Iraqi military buildup. Politically, the two countries belong to competing axes in the Arab world. Iraq is not only pro-Iranian, it also backs Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Indeed, when the U.S. asked Prime Minister al-Maliki to close off Iraqi air space to Iranian aircraft resupplying Assad, he refused and opted to help Iran instead.

Many forget that al-Maliki lived in exile in Iran for eight years; his party, al-Dawa, was close with Hezbollah. The Iraqi prime minister’s recent actions will undoubtedly reconfirm the suspicions of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who once called al-Maliki “an Iranian agent,” according to a March 2009 Wikileaks cable that was noted on an earlier occasion in this column.

Now the “Iranian agent” will be getting state-of-the-art American aircraft. It should be recalled that Saudi Arabia is Iran’s main adversary in the Arab world and it is a leading opponent of the Assad regime. Indeed, right after the recent Arab summit in Baghdad, al-Maliki launched a verbal tirade criticizing Saudi Arabia and Qatar for their hostile attitude toward the Assad regime. Along with its growing political differences with Baghdad, Saudi Arabia will have to face new Iraqi military capabilities along its northern border, which it hasn’t had to deal with since 1990. The new situation will allow Iran to encircle Saudi Arabia with pressures on three fronts: Bahrain in the east, Yemen in the south, and Iraq in the north.

Israel will need to carefully monitor political and military developments in Iraq. It is imperative that Israel raise this sale with Washington when the issue of Israel’s qualitative military edge is raised. Iraq has been absent from the strategic balance in the Middle East for two decades. Besides investing in its air force, the Iraqi government hopes to build a land army of 14 divisions. It is also buying Abrams tanks from the U.S.

But as much as Washington will still try to control events in a country where its army once ruled, it will have to recognize that, unfortunately, Iran, at present, is emerging as the dominant power in Baghdad, which will ultimately influence what strategic objectives the Iraqi Army will serve along Israel’s eastern front.

This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Book Reviews Commentary ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    ‎Kosher Lust: Love is Not the Answer (REVIEW)

    Kosher Lust, by Shmuley Boteach (Gefen Publishing House, 2014). You really do want to find something positive to say about Shmuley Boteach. He is a phenomenon; very bright, an articulate bundle of energy and self-promotion. Anyone who has the chutzpah to describe himself as “America’s Rabbi” deserves ten out of ten for effort. I believe that along with most Chabad alumni, official and unofficial, he does a lot of good and is a sort of national treasure. In this world [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    JNS.org – Many young Jewish artists struggle to define who they are personally, artistically, and religiously. Against the backdrop of that struggle, the recent Asylum Arts International Jewish Artists Retreat provided a space for some 70 young Jewish artists to explore Jewish ideas, to build community and a culture of reciprocity, and to learn skills to assist their career development. “We are trying to encourage and excite people to engage in Jewish themes,” says Rebecca Guber, director of Asylum Arts. [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    JNS.org – Has the era of large-scale biblical epics returned? Not since “The Ten Commandments” has there been so much torrential water on the big screen (not counting weather-related disaster films such as “The Impossible”) than in “Noah,” the latest blockbuster from writer and director Darren Aronofsky. “Noah” takes the traditional tale and splices it in an eco-friendly and psychologically driven plot. After Adam and Eve got booted out of the Garden of Eden and after Cain killed Abel, mankind [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    JNS.org – An Israeli-Arab microbiologist and mother of three won the fourth season of Israel’s most popular reality TV show, “MasterChef.” Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, 32, who holds a PhD in microbiology and is from the Israeli-Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, described winning as the “the most exciting moment in her life.” She said she plans to use the prize money to open up an Arab-Jewish cooking school. MasterChef is a popular reality TV show that originated in the U.K. It is [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Theater Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Jewish comedian and writer David Baddiel is seeking public support to help produce a musical based on his film about a British Muslim man who discovers his parents are Jewish. London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East is in development to premiere The Infidel in October, London’s Evening Standard reported on Wednesday. However, the theater needs another £55,000 on top of around £200,000 already raised in order to produce the show. Baddiel, 49, retained the stage rights to the story when he wrote the [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.