The US Department of Defense is closing in on a deal to send $82 million worth of military arms and equipment to the government of Iraq, as discussions about a continuing US presence there are ongoing.
The sale would include, for example, tens of thousands of M107 155mm High Explosive Projectiles along with thousands more artillery charges, transportation and communication equipment, personnel training, and US Government and contractor engineering, logistics, and technical support services.
The Obama administration and the Pentagon denied reports late last week that a deal on keeping thousands of US troops in Iraq beyond the December deadline for withdrawal had been abandoned. Pentagon press secretary George Little said “discussions are ongoing” for whether Iraq will allow the remaining contingent of troops, in addition to the expanded diplomatic and contractor presence, and with immunity from Iraqi law.
Throughout this process, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has circumvented Parliament in only the latest in a long trend of quasi-dictatorial behavior from his regime. Maliki has harshly cracked down on peaceful activism, harassed and even attacked journalists that were critical of his regime, and has been accused of torturing prisoners in secret Iraqi jails. In a diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, US envoy Ryan Crocker noted in 2009 that Maliki’s turn towards more centralized rule is “in US interest.”
The sale of this $82 million worth of arms, military equipment, and personnel training is either a sign that a deal to keep a sizable troop presence is near, or that it doesn’t matter, as Iraq’s client state status becomes a reality.