US weapons sales to Iraq: Still a good idea as violence escalates?
The 150 uniformed US troops still in Iraq are there to facilitate weapons sales and train Iraqi forces to use the armaments. But as violence rises in Iraq since the US military pullout, some analysts see greater risks that US-supplied weapons may be misused.
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This monitoring “is conducted to make sure the government isn’t in violation of human rights,” says Lt. Col. Thomas Hanson, a spokesman with OSC-I, who is also in Iraq. “All that has been conducted with the government of Iraq, and continues to be conducted every time we make a sale.”Skip to next paragraph
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The OSC-I also conducts spot checks to make sure sensitive equipment, including night-vision goggles, isn’t being misused – “to make sure they’re not being diverted for nefarious purposes,” Hanson says. On that count, “In terms of technical compliance, we’ve had no problems” with the Iraqi government to date, he says.
As part of any weapon sales agreement with Iraq, the OSC-I tacks on a 3.8 percent surcharge for its services shepherding contracts and training Iraqis to use the weapons and vehicles, as well as for spare parts. The OSC-I also employs some 760 contractors who work with the equipment and help with training.
There's also the argument that the US could use military sales as a bargaining chip with Iraqi political brokers, now that US influence in Iraq has shrunk along with its troop presence.
The Iraqi government is particularly interested in acquiring F-16 fighter jets. During Mr. Maliki's visit to Washington earlier this month, President Obama announced the sale of 18 F-16s to the Iraqi government, on the heels of a previous sale, for a total of 36 fighter jets. The first deliveries of the aircraft are scheduled for 2014.
“That could be one way to garner some leverage over the prime minister,” says Sullivan. It could also encourage the Kurds – whose support Maliki currently relies upon to keep his [party's] parliamentary majority – to take an active role in tamping down sectarian tensions.
The question is what Maliki, and in turn Iraqi security forces, will do with arms already have in hand. Since Maliki's moves last week to take up an arrest warrant against his vice president and to fire the deputy prime minister, security has deteriorated. “I don’t think anyone expected it to unravel this quickly,” Sullivan says. “We’ll see where it goes.”
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