It seems like it was only yesterday when the US, under the guise of a fabricated WMD threat, was invading Iraq to liberate its oil deposits.
Fast forward to this week, when as Reuters reports, the US will deliver the first of 36 F-16 fighter jets to Iraq in what Baghdad's envoy to the United States called a "new chapter" in his country's ability to defend its vast borders with Iran and other neighbors. Which merely shows that since the US has "sanctioned" virtually every other potential customer of US weapons, it now has no choice but to invoice defense machinery deliveries (and boost factory orders and GDP) to former enemies. It also means that in several years, when Iraq reverts to a posture that is unfriendly to the US, and when the US shale boom is long gone and foreign sources of petroleum are once again all the rage, the US will have to fight its own fighter jets in the name of yet another war of democratic liberation and emancipation.
Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily will travel to Lockheed's Fort Worth, Texas, plant on Thursday for a ceremony at which Lockheed and the U.S. government will formally deliver the first F-16 to Iraq.
A group of three or four new jets will be ferried to Iraq before the end of the year.
"Iraq is a large country with over 3,600 km of borders, and we need to protect them," Faily told Reuters in a telephone interview. "We as a country didn't have that capability before." Iraq has had no real air force since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 that eventually toppled Saddam Hussein.
Smart: first the US wipes out a country's air force, then it sells it its new air force. Rinse. Repeat. And just to make sure that Iraq is well-armed and believes it has a fighting chance, the US earlier in March provided Iraq with some 100 Hellfire missiles as well as assault rifles and other ammunition. Then in April the US sent more arms, providing Iraq with 11 million rounds of ammunition and other supplies.
The political cover is already in place: in January John Kerry said that the U.S. would support fighting Al-Qaeda linked groups in Iraq, but not with US troops. This has been a sensitive issue because such groups had recently taken control of significant territory in the Anbar province, a key area for extremist groups. It was not immediately clear how much under the table aid the US had provided to this particular group of Al Qaeda insurgents, unlike recent revelations it has provided weapons to Syrian rebels, many of which as is widely known, are a members of Al Qaeda.
Only Iraq is not dumb: the country knows it is only a matter of time before the resurgent Iraq airforce is considered a threat by the same US who is providing it, and knowing the winds of realpolitik are fickle, it is also aligning itself with Russia, the Czech Republic and others:
Baghdad has also signed military contracts with Russia and the Czech Republic, among others, and has said it will not be able to fully defend its airspace until 2020.
Iraq also plans to buy Boeing Co Apache helicopters and other weapons from the U.S. government as it assumes responsibility for its own defense and counterterrorism efforts. Faily said the U.S. government appreciated the urgency and scale of the challenge that Iraqi is facing given continued and mounting strife with insurgents.
"They know that the sooner and the wider capabilities they provide us, the more ability we will have to reduce the vicious cycle of killing where the terrorists are attacking our people," he said.
He probably is referring to the CIA-sponsored Afghani freedom fighters led by one Osama bin Laden who also, surprisingly, ended up turning on the US? But that doesn't matter for now. All that matters is that the US GDP building must go on:
Faily said Iraq was completing work on the air base in Balad where the new jets will be housed. He said some Iraqi pilots had already been trained to fly the new planes, and more were in training now. Iraq ordered a first batch of 18 F-16s in 2011 for $3 billion, followed by a second order of 18 jets in October 2012.
... With more GDP growth to come:
Lockheed said the Iraqi order would keep the F-16 production line running through late 2017, but it continues to bid for new orders in hopes of continuing production through 2020. The company has built more than 4,540 F-16 aircraft to date.
How will Iraq pay for all of these US weapons? Well, buying "can't lose, this time it's different" US stocks is always an option...