Iraq Military’s Corruption Means Weapons Aid Doesn’t Go That Far

'If Each Soldier Is Supposed to Get 100 Bullets, He Will Get Only 50'

Awash in oil wealth and massive influxes of US aid, Iraq was supposed to have the best trained, best equipped military in the region. After being routed by ISIS, there is huge pressure for the US to rearm them.

But the billions of dollars in aid they have to send to Iraq to build that military up again isn’t going to go nearly so far as you’d figure, because of the massive amount of corruption in the Iraqi military.

“If each soldier is supposed to get 100 bullets, he will only get 50, and the officer will take and sell the rest,” noted Col. Shaaban al-Obeidi. “I told the Americans, don’t give any weapons through the army – not even one piece – because corruption is everywhere, and you will not see any of it. Our people will steal it.”

Corruption has become so absurdly rampant in Iraq that many of its leaders have gotten informal nicknames based on their respective graft. Lt. Gen. Rashid Fleih is known as “chicken guy” because of his penchant for selling off the chickens meant to be fed to the troops. Another,  General Mahdi al-Gharawi, aka “General Deftar,” is named after the Deftar, the local term for the 10,000 dinar bills he demands for selling promotions.

Prime Minister Hayder Abadi has ousted several officers for corruption and “unprofessionalism,” but many in the military warn the problem remains extremely common.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of