It has been nearly a quarter-of-a-century since a highly sophisticated United States-led military coalition unleashed from the skies deadly munitions on an occupying Iraqi Army which was hounded out of Kuwait, many thousands of whom were blown to pieces, in what essentially amounted to little more than turkey shoots, in the process. As his forces withdraw from Kuwait Saddam Hussein infamously had them burn Kuwait’s oil wells.
Today, perhaps had it not been for the prominent position Islamic State (IS) occupies in both Northern Iraq and our minds the last payment of Iraq’s war debt to Kuwait, a weighty $4.6 billion, was postponed. The total reparations bill adds up to an extremely hefty sum of $52.4 billion. The Iraqis have made good on just about all of it, and had it not been for the crisis it faces in the wake of losing large swaths of its own territory to violent marauding jihadis coupled with the dramatic fall in the world price of oil it would likely have paid that last $4.6 billion on time and finally put to rest this depressing chapter in the histories of both countries.
Iraq has until January 2016 to pay Kuwait the last of the reparations for that war which, as it happens is twenty-five years to the month since the first shots of the 1991 Persian Gulf War were fired. One is glad that this was at least postponed. Given the sheer amount of cash which has flowed from private donors in that tiny sheikdom to violent jihadi groups of the kind which have raped and pillaged northern communities in Iraq one would have been quite infuriated if the Kuwaitis pressured Iraq to pay that cash upfront in the midst of this crisis.
On a less depressing note one was quite happy to see that the United States is providing Iraq with six additional M-1 Abrams main battle tanks for its army along with twenty-five MRAP mine-resistant vehicles and fifty up-armored Humvees for free, all important vehicles considering how big of a threat mines and IED’s still pose in Iraq and also given the fact that Islamic State will more likely than not, if they haven’t already, plant such lethal devices in those areas they presently occupy. Such vehicles will likely be needed for the planned liberation of IS-occupied Mosul. A battle whose outcome, it appears clear before it even begins, will be very important for the army’s morale considering it was in Mosul, and the broader Nineveh province, where the Iraqi Army was humiliated when its forces command structure proved to be wholly inept in the wake of the Islamic State assault and unable to mount a sufficient defense last June. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has vowed that Mosul will be liberated in a few months with a minimal amount of casualties. That is of instrumental importance. One hopes U.S. air strikes against populated urban centers are kept at a bare minimum (unless absolutely necessary or carried out against very high value targets) and that when the Iraqi Army does mount this offensive it will be aimed at a rigorous and thorough uprooting of Islamic State from that urban center with as few large air and artillery attacks as possible.
One also hopes that Mr. Al-Abadi is successful in his attempts to reconcile with the Sunni Arabs of his country in light of the heavy-handed measures adopted by his predecessor to forcibly subdue Sunni demonstrations, a move which one believes produced the widespread instability and turmoil which IS was able to exploit with such devastating efficiency. There have even been various testimonies from Iraqis in IS-occupied areas who are simply keeping their heads down. They are, after all, largely unarmed and defenseless. Most of them know IS is completely ruthless when it comes to crushing dissent in the areas they control. But at the same time these Iraqis fear more violence if government forces come in light of the scandalous use, during the tenure of Nouri al-Maliki, of highly indiscriminate cluster munitions in urban areas, like Fallujah, in Anbar little over a year ago against armed groups there. A move which, if it didn’t maim them badly or kill them, traumatized many residents of these areas, who are already weary of the many years of war and conflict which has ravaged their country.
Everyone knows how crude and horrible barrel bombs, and other similar munitions, are having seen them being used by the regime in Syria. Furthermore, on a strictly tactical basis, they are also largely worthless devices and seldom, if ever, actually kill armed combatants, but instead frequently maim horribly and/or kill civilian bystanders caught in the crossfire, which often happens to be their homes. Another reason that one is pleased to see Iraq getting more sophisticated and less indiscriminate weaponry to use in the fight against IS such as Hellfire missiles.
Iraq’s Ambassador to the United States Lukman Faily recently told CNN about the urgency for such weapons along with intelligence sharing and continued air support, the latter being instrumental given the lack of sophisticated aircraft in the Iraqi Air Forces inventory at present (the U.S. F-16’s allotted to them won’t likely have adequately trained pilots for the foreseeable future). It’s great to see that the army will be getting the aforementioned vehicles for free, one also hopes that additional ones will be provided to them on credit, with no interest or even for free if feasible, given the urgency of the fight and the fact that the lives of young men in the Iraqi Army will doubtlessly be risked, and lost, in liberating a large metropolis like Mosul.
It is after all important that patrons of Iraq like the United States, which wishes to see Islamic State destroyed, provides them with the most effective weaponry, protection and support.