Vast smuggling web sustains Iraqi military

By WND Staff

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Iraq continues to maintain a huge arms smuggling network in an effort to offset its failure to revive the nation’s defense industries, reports Geostrategy, the global intelligence news agency.

The regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has established a network of 150 companies or agents which has bought military systems and components from 500 companies in 43 countries.

A new book, entitled “Iraq’s Military Capabilities in 2002,” published by the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said the Iraqi network has enabled Saddam to purchase air defense equipment from China and Ukraine. Baghdad has succeeded in smuggling the military components through such Iraqi neighbors as Jordan, Syria and Turkey.

“Deliveries through Syria, which have become significant since mid-2001, include parts and weapons assemblies for MiG and Sukhoi aircraft, armor, and land-based air defenses,” the book, authored by senior CSIS fellow Anthony Cordesman, said.

Cordesman said the network, established during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, has not succeeded in significantly bolstering Saddam’s military. He said Baghdad is spending far less than the $3 billion in annual military procurement before the 1991 Gulf war.

“It has not visibly deployed any major new weapon system since 1991, nor has it been able to recapitalize any aspect of its force structure,” the book said. “About two-thirds of its remaining inventory of armor and aircraft are obsolete by Western standards. Iraq has lacked the funds, spare parts, and production capabilities to sustain the quality of its consolidated forces.”

Cordesman, a former senior Pentagon official, said Iraq has not managed to restore its large weapons production facilities. He said Iraq’s defense industry has been limited to the production of guns and ammunition.

“Many of its modernization efforts have shown some technical skill, but others have been little more than unintentional technical practical jokes,” the book, published earlier this month, said.

[On Sept. 24, Britain released a dossier on Iraq that asserted that the regime of President Saddam Hussein could complete a nuclear weapon by the end of 2003. The dossier, released in parliament, said Saddam plans to develop missiles that could reach Cyprus, Greece, Israel and Turkey. Britain said Saddam already has 20 medium-range missiles.]

The book said Iraq has not been able to fund or import any major new conventional warfare technology meant to compensate for shortcomings during the 1991 Gulf war. Iraq has also failed to produce any major equipment – with the possible exception of limited numbers of Magic air-to-air missiles. The missiles are said to have an extremely short range.

“Iraq’s inability to recapitalize and modernize its forces means that much of its large order of battle is now obsolescent or obsolete, has uncertain combat readiness, and will be difficult to sustain in combat,” the book said. “It also raises serious questions about the ability of Iraq’s forces to conduct long-range movements or maneuvers and then sustain coherent operations.”

As a result, Iraq has been thoroughly outspent by its neighbors, the book said. Saudi Arabia has taken delivery of more than $66 billion worth of new arms since 1991. Kuwait has received $7.6 billion; Iran, $4.3 billion, Bahrain, $700 million; Oman, $1.4 billion; Qatar, $1.7 billion, and the United Arab Emirates, $7.9 billion.

Cordesman said Iraq retains significant strength in its ground forces and can still operate nearly 200 combat aircraft as well as artillery that has greater range than those of the United States. But the book said Iraq’s military is technologically backward and cannot coordinate operations above the level of a brigade and or in joint missions by the army and air force.

“It also has not demonstrated that it can use surface-to-air missiles in a well-organized way as a maneuvering force to cover its deployed land forces,” the book said. “Iraq does retain the ability to rapidly move heavy armored forces by tank transporter if it can use its road net and does not face major air opposition.”

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