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Op-Ed: The significance of Iraq’s acquiring of Mirage jets

The United Arab Emirates has a significant vested interest in the security of the Iraqi state against the notorious Islamic State (IS, ISIS) terror group which has wreaked havoc across the north of that country. Accordingly it has offered the Iraqi government some of its air force’s (less than 10 apparently) French-made Dassault Mirage 2000 jets. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is expected to be in the UAE in March when he will discuss the delivery of these jets and accompanying armaments.

This is quite significant. For one thing, Iraq’s Air Force has been waiting for some time to refurbish its air force with some modern jet fighters after the death of the Saddam-era air force. The United States has agreed to sell them F-16 Fighting Falcons, but earlier models have yet to be delivered. This is due to the fact that Iraqi pilots currently being trained in the United States will require a few more years training. In addition to this the U.S. has other concerns pertaining to the security and terror threat ISIS has posed to Iraq in recent months.

The delivery of these Mirages which is expected come spring would be substantial. And what is interesting is the fact they are Mirages. During Saddam Hussein’s reign the Iraqi Air Force acquired Dassault Mirage F-1 jets sold to it by France which they used throughout the lengthy war with Iran throughout the 1980’s, the Al-Anfal campaign against the Iraqi Kurds later in that period and against the Americans during the 1991 Persian Gulf War (many also fled to neighbouring Iran where they are still in service with Iran’s Air Force where they are based primarily in the east of that country). What was left of Iraq’s Air Force was completely eradicated or decommissioned after the 2003 Anglo-American invasion of the country. The post-Saddam Iraqi Air Force has to date yet to acquire modern jet fighters. Until now.

In relation to the UAE’s interests in Iraq’s security, and in turn the safety of its oil and gas interests in that country, it is particularly interested in the Iraqi Air Force having the ability to effectively combat threats to the security of areas between Baghdad and Erbil, and those cities themselves. This is a nice sight to behold when you consider that the last time Mirage jets in the service of the Iraqi Air Force that air force was being used to bomb and gas the Kurds in a campaign that killed tens-of-thousands of them. It’s certainly nice to see such sophisticated and potentially deadly military hardware isn’t being used for that purpose anymore and will instead be taking to the skies to defend those areas of Iraq. If anything one guesses that is progress of a kind.

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