Escalation and tension on the Iraqi Army's 103rd anniversary

Escalation and tension on the Iraqi Army's 103rd anniversary

Shafaq News / In a military parade held at the Celebrations Square in central Baghdad, the Iraqi army commemorated its 103rd anniversary, coinciding with January 6th annually.

Days preceding the event have witnessed relentless displays of celebration, featuring flyovers by fighter jets and helicopters across the capital's skies. Meanwhile, preparations at the Celebrations Square transformed it into a compound showcasing all branches of the armed forces - land, air, and sea - to accommodate the grand military parade.

Unprecedented developments

This year's celebration of the Iraqi Army's anniversary comes amid unprecedented security tensions within the country. Just two days ago, on Thursday, an American strike targeted an al-Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces-PMF) headquarters on Palestine Street in eastern Baghdad. This attack resulted in the death of the military figure within the Al-Nujaba Movement, Mushtaq Talib al-Saadi.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani condemned the repeated attacks targeting PMF's headquarters by the US-led Global Coalition forces, opposing the presence of these forces in the country. He reaffirmed his government's steadfast stance in terminating the presence of such forces within Iraq.

However, security experts, military officials, and strategists highlighted the Iraqi Army's current need for the presence of the Global Coalition, especially concerning logistical support and technological assistance. They revealed numerous and diverse significant challenges faced by the military institution due to the circumstances it has endured, notably over the past three decades.

Milestones in the Iraqi Army

The first unit of the Iraqi Army, known as the "Imam Musa al-Kadhim Regiment", was established on January 6th, 1921.

Throughout its history, the Iraqi Army has evolved and participated in various wars and conflicts, including the 1948 Arab-Israeli War that followed the declaration of the State of Israel in Palestine and the October 1973 war. Additionally, it engaged in suppressing internal uprisings, notably in the Kurdistan region (KRI), which endured for decades.

During the 1980s, the Iraqi Army achieved a prominent status, being recognized as the sixth most potent military force globally following the eight-year war with Iran.

However, this status did not last long. Saddam Hussein led the army into the invasion of Kuwait, resulting in a forced withdrawal after about five months under the strikes of the Global Coalition in 1991.

The demise of the previous Iraqi army culminated with the US forces' occupation of Iraq in the 2003 war and the decree issued by the then-president of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, Paul Bremer, to dissolve the Iraqi Army.

The re-establishment of the Iraqi Army after the war was based on altered principles. It transitioned to a volunteer-based structure after previously relying on conscription. Attractively high salaries for soldiers and officers became an incentive for joining the armed forces.

Primarily focused on internal security, the current Iraqi Army has seen an increase in its numbers over recent years, reaching hundreds of thousands. However, it faces deficiencies in armament and equipment, especially regarding the protection of its airspace.


Regarding national security, Sarmad Al-Bayati, a security expert, highlighted that while the Iraqi Army possesses capabilities to safeguard the nation, it currently requires crucial elements for comprehensive defense. These crucial elements include air defenses, aerial reconnaissance, ground target identification from aerial perspectives, and other requisites pertinent to safeguarding Iraq's airspace.

Al-Bayati emphasized, "The Iraqi Army also requires advanced technologies that align with modern global military standards."

Furthermore, strategic expert Ahmed Al-Sharifi, clarified that the Iraqi Army faces substantial and diverse challenges. Chief among these challenges is the entanglement of security and military institutions in a system of favoritism, which has hindered the establishment of a secure strategy for developing armament capabilities, combat skills, and optimizing human resources.

Al-Sharifi expounded that in democratic systems, security, military, financial, and foreign institutions are classified as sovereign ministries, linked to long-term strategies that surpass the authorizations granted to governments. Consequently, favoritism poses the most significant challenge to the military institution.

He observed that "political instability obstructs the military institution in armament affairs due to political balancing. This limitation affects the deployment of units outside Iraq, depriving fighters of diversified armament and training opportunities, hindering the infusion of modern military cultural exchanges, particularly from advanced institutions, and failing to transfer advanced, contemporary experiences associated with technical dimensions and combat skills in modern warfare concepts."

Al-Sharifi stressed that favoritism has constrained the development strategies of the military institution, especially in the crucial technical support realm. He highlighted the indispensable nature of technical efforts in modern warfare, particularly concerning sovereignty issues, airspace control, accurate aerial survey databases, and radar coverage known as "Cross Coverage", serving as the pilot's eye in the sky. Hence, the need for the continued presence of the Global Coalition in terms of logistical support remains imperative.

Moreover, Al-Sharifi pointed out that the presence of the Global Coalition extends beyond military aspects, encompassing political dimensions related to joint cooperation, collective defense, and joint exercises within the military institution. He added, "When military institutions are linked to international alliances and associated with a force like the US Army, it guarantees their ability to enhance both defensive and offensive strategic deterrence."

He illustrated this by citing "terrorism threats," highlighting its transborder nature. When a nation is allied with Americans, it signifies the availability of mechanisms for cross-border operations under international legal coverage. Conversely, terminating this alliance would result in the loss of these advantages for the country. Therefore, he emphasized that political decision-makers need to consider these aspects and avoid impulsive decisions, especially in matters of sovereignty, acknowledging the diverse national fabric that necessitates consensus in such decisions.

Additionally, Ehsan Al-Shammari, the head of the Political Thinking Center, dismissed the notion of ending the Baghdad-Washington relationship solely based on the Strategic Framework Agreement, highlighting the significance of the United States for Iraq as a nation and for the future of its government and people.

Al-Shammari projected that the Iraqi stance on engaging in negotiations to schedule American withdrawal within a period of 3 - 5 years remains "challenging" due to American reasons tied to the region and the global scenario. Simultaneously, it remains unclear whether this decision would garner internal Iraqi consensus, according to Al-Shammari.

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