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article imageOp-Ed: US F-16 delivery delayed while Russian Su-25s arrive in Iraq

By Ken Hanly     Jul 1, 2014 in World
Baghdad - Iraq ordered 34 F-16 fighter jets from the US back in 2011. Not one has yet arrived and now delivery is again delayed due to security conditions according to the Pentagon.
The Pentagon claims that contractors at Balad air base had been evacuated because of the ISIS advance and this slowed the whole process down. The ISIS advance is recent. The Pentagon had almost three years before this to deliver the planes. No doubt the Pentagon has delayed the delivery due to Kurd worries that the planes might be used against them. Now that the Kurds are threatening to hold a referendum on independence and planning to stay in the disputed city of Kirkuk the US may fear that the planes could indeed be used against the Kurds.
The al-Maliki government recently ordered Su-25 planes from Russia on Friday and they arrived two days later. Actually an ABC report says that five second-hand Sukhoi-25 jets arrived in Baghdad as early as Saturday.
Another report said that two more planes were expected on Sunday. No doubt Al-Maliki will try to have the US and Russia compete to provide support for the fight against ISIS. Iraq is also seeking some old Iraqi planes that were flown to Iran and impounded during the first Gulf War.
Al-Maliki blamed the recent advance by ISIS to the lack of an Iraqi Air Force claiming he just has a few Cessna trainers firing Hellfire Missiles. He does have some attack helicopters however. The Hellfire missiles are not compatible with the Russian planes. The Iraqis will also require technical help and perhaps parts to make the used Russian planes operational. Unless Russian pilots are to be used, Iraqis will need training to operate the planes. However, Iraqis claim the planes will be ready to go in three or four days.
The US is rushing 75 Hellfire missiles to Iraq but this will last Iraq only about three days. Obama is sending 200 more troops in addition to the three hundred that he sent earlier. It remains to be seen if the US actually becomes involved in air attacks against ISIL.
Afzal Ashraf a Consultant fellow at Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) has an article in Al Jazeera tracing some of the history of aerial bombardment including the use of bombardment to create terror by Churchill in the 2nd World War. He thinks that Al-Maliki has an overly optimistic view of the power of airstrikes especially by pilots without advanced training and with poor intelligence of what is happening on the ground. He points out that it would be virtually impossible to attack the rebels in an urban setting without killing innocent civilians. Since the victims will be Sunni perhaps many Shias and Maliki himself may not have much empathy with them. As Ahsraf concludes: So both the political context and the military circumstances suggest that air power will be used in a way that could lead to civilian casualties. The potential to store up another phase of grievances between the Sunni heartland and Baghdad seems great. Any short-term military success might come at the expense of long-term political damage.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about US Iraq relations, Russia Iraq relations, iraqi air power
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