Iraq is becoming one of the largest customers for U.S. arms, as the country turns from Soviet-bloc weapons to pricier but more sophisticated American weapons, USA Today reported Thursday.
Iraq’s government has committed nearly $3 billion for U.S. weapons and equipment over the past year, the paper reported.
"This is a substantial amount of money that they put on the table," Joseph Benkert, deputy assistant secretary of defense for global security affairs, told USA Today.
Iraq is now among the top current purchasers of U.S. military equipment through the foreign military sales program, with notable purchases of the Humvee, and M-4 and M-16 rifles, the paper wrote, citing military contract records.
Iraqi officers saw the superiority of U.S. equipment in the 1991 Gulf War and during the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, John Pike of military think tank GlobalSecurity.org told the paper. "We took on the Iraq army twice and we made short work of them both times."
Iraq’s army is trading its AK-47 assault rifles for the more accurate U.S. M-16 and M-4 rifles, Army Col. Gregory Perchatsch, deputy director of the U.S. Security Assistance Office in Iraq, told USA Today.
U.S. equipment has a reputation of being generally better quality, but sometimes more difficult to operate and maintain. AK-47s are generally suited for less developed militaries, USA Today wrote.
"Give it another five, six or eight years and you could be talking about deals that put the Saudis to shame," Pike is quoted as saying. The oil-rich Saudis have bought American fighters and armored vehicles worth billions of dollars.