Azzaman – 2009-01-26 22:35:05
Iraq to Purchase 2,000 T-72 Russian Tanks
(January 14, 2009) — In a bid to boost combat readiness of its new army, the government is said to be negotiating a massive arms deal with Russia to buy 2,000 battle tanks. But the T-72 model the government mulls purchasing is an old and outdated version of which the former army had hundreds.
They proved ineffective and highly vulnerable against modern M1 Abrams and Challenger 1 which U.S. and British troops used during the Gulf wars of 1991 and 2003.
Former army officers say some 400 T-72 tanks were knocked out during the 2003-U.S. invasion and the rest were smuggled to neighboring states.
It is not clear why the government is opting for T-72 while Russia has manufactured much better and more battle-efficient models such as T-82 and T-92 which are specifically designed for modern warfare.
Analysts fear the deal, like former contracts, will lack the necessary transparency and will be mired with commissions and bribes. One indication is the refusal of the negotiators to obtain parliamentary vetting and approval.
The value of the contract being negotiated is not known but the size of the deal makes it one of the largest ever signed in the Middle East.
Iraqi Army Is Small and Lightly Armed, Says General
Zeena Sami / Azzaman
(January 10, 2009) — The weapons in the possession of the Iraqi army are similar to those the police in other countries use, said General Babaker Zaybari.
“The weapons our armed forces have are not the kind of weapons armies use. They are only fit to equip a lightly armed police force,” Zaybari said. “We are in need of massive resources and capabilities for the army to obtain advanced weapons,” he added.
He said this was the reason the government agreed to let U.S. troops stay in the country since the national army is not yet ready to shoulder the responsibility of defending the country. The current army has only four divisions, he said, while the former army under the rule of Saddam Hussein had up to 60 divisions.
“For this reason to be effective our new army must be equipped with highly advanced weapons. We need to raise an efficient army that relies on quality rather than quantity,” Zaybari said.
Iraqi army now relies on volunteers. There are no shortages of volunteers and there are always more applicants than the numbers the defense ministry asks for.
But the army itself is divided across ethnic and sectarian lines. And amid the presence of powerful militias, there are fears that it may take many more years for the country to have a truly national army.
Iraq Slashes 2009 Budget to $67 from $87
Fatima Kamal / Azzaman
(January 13, 2009) — The sharp drop in oil prices has forced the government to slash 2009 budget to $67 from $87, Planning and Development Cooperation Minister Ali Baban said.
Baban said the ongoing decline in oil prices has prompted his ministry to start formal discussion with other ministries on how to reduce spending. But the minister said he did not believe that the dwindling oil prices would lead “to an economic crisis in the country.”
“I do not foresee a big economic crisis and the kind of economic depression that has inflicted other countries to hit Iraq,” he added.
Oil prices on international markets now hover at about to $40 a barrel from highs that brushed to $150 a few months ago. Planning and Development Cooperation Ministry is preparing for a conference to see how the government can revitalize other economic sectors than oil.
“We need to reinvigorate all production sectors, open doors for investment, support the private sector and lure international firms to execute strategic projects in the country,” Baban said. Iraq relies almost solely on oil sales to finance its budget and price oil price gyrations influence its economic policies.
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