With ISIS forces blitzing Iraqi cities after sweeping through Syria, Middle East nations are surely taking heed of what’s transpiring and cautiously assessing their own capabilities and vulnerabilities to irregular threats. Defense spending in the region is as high as ever, but large platform purchases for advanced systems, such as advanced fighters and missile defense, drive much of the spending. Smaller militaries, like Qatar’s, have focused their efforts on preparing for a larger, platform-centric threat instead of the insurgency that plagues Iraq. Iraq, however, has steadily acquired America’s leftovers from Operation Iraqi Freedom as the country reboots its armed forces to combat conventional and unconventional adversaries.
As the United States drew away from direct involvement in Iraq, the Iraqi military has used its fiscal 2013 $10 billion defense budget to steadily arm itself with a slew of American-made weapons and platforms. The Iraqi military moved to modernize its air force and ground forces simultaneously, procuring F-16IQ’s and a host of different MRAPs and light-armored vehicles, as well as AN/TPQ-36 Firefinder and AN/TPQ-48 counter-mortar radars. A recent $4 billion foreign-military sales request for AH-64E Apache attack helicopters, almost 40% of Iraq’s $10.8 billion fiscal-year 2014 budget, may not see the light of day if the situation continues to degrade, though Apaches would undoubtedly aid counter-insurgency efforts today.
In just a short clip of the fighting we see today, it’s apparent how the Iraqi military has come quite far in equipping its soldiers. There’s the ubiquitous up-armored HMMWV – a quintessential image of the United States’ legacy in Iraq, a variety of MRAPs (including the Cougar seen at 00:09), countless new small arms (M24, M16 with EoTech and AN/PEQ-2, M249, to name a few), Harris Falcon radios, and modern body armor (specifically helmets, whose mounts suggest very modern night vision capabilities have made it to the Iraqi military).
But the new Iraqi military is young and this is one of its biggest tests since being reconstituted after the U.S. invasion. With reports of military defections from the highest levels all the way down the chain of command, the pool of available soldiers is rapidly dwindling. With just over 200,000 soldiers in its ranks, any defection — especially in the higher ranks — takes its toll on operational capability and morale suffers accordingly. Good equipment means nothing without the soldiers to use it.