U.S. suppliers for Iraq war sell Baghdad billions in arms

AFP-JIJI

Ten years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq has become a major buyer of military equipment, spending billions to rebuild its armed forces — and is now a customer of some of the same companies that supplied the weapons that were used to attack Baghdad’s troops in 2003.

U.S.-led forces carried out a massive bombing campaign and ground offensive against Iraq in March that year. The campaign wrested control of the country from a military that once was among the strongest in the region but was hard hit by the 1980-1988 war with Iran and the 1991 Gulf War over Kuwait.

Paul Bremer, U.S. administrator of Iraq at the time, disbanded its military, helping fuel the insurgency that was to consume the country for years to come. Even now, Iraqi security forces are still rebuilding.

The “Iraqi Army . . . started from zero, so it needs many things,” the country’s top officer, Lt. Gen. Babaker Zebari, said at a security and defense exhibition in Baghdad.

With a security and defense budget of about $16.4 billion for 2013 and a commitment to rebuilding its forces, Iraq offers significant opportunities for defense and security firms.

Though U.S. troops departed Iraq in December 2011, the United States is still the main arms supplier for the country, which has taken delivery of U.S. military equipment ranging from M113 armored personnel carriers and M1 Abrams tanks to M-16 assault rifles.

The United States has also assisted Iraq in fielding equipment and training.