Iraqi Armed Forces

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IraqIraq Armed Forces of Iraq
Iraqi Armed Forces
Commander in Chief : Haider al-Abadi
Military Commander: Othman al-Ghanimi
Headquarters: Baghdad
Military strength
Active soldiers: 226,000 (estimate for 2009)
Conscription: exposed
Eligibility for military service: 18 years
Military budget: $ 6.055 billion
Founding: 1921

The Armed Forces of Iraq ( Arabic القوات المسلحة العراقية, DMG al-Quwwat al-Musallaḥa al-'Irāqiyya ) are the Iraqi military and included in October 2009, about 226,000 soldiers in three branches of the armed forces and subordinate to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense . In addition, there are another 390,345 men as part of the Iraqi security forces (as of October 2009). They belong to the Iraqi Police Service (IPS) (paramilitary police units), the Federal Police (National Police) and the Border Enforcement Department and are subordinate to the Iraqi Interior Ministry.

With the Iraq war in 2003, in which the US armed forces attacked the country in violation of international law , the armed forces of Iraq experienced the deepest turning point in their history. After their defeat in this war, they were rebuilt and restructured by the multinational occupying forces after all soldiers had initially been released.

Soldiers of the 6th Iraqi Army


Armed forces until 2003

The Iraqi armed forces were built up by the British mandate lords after the First World War . After the fall of the Ottoman Empire, they had received control over Iraq ( British Mandate Mesopotamia ). The army was founded with the formation of the first battalion on January 6, 1921, the first defense minister was Jafar al-Askari . As a result, further army units, the air force and the naval forces were set up. Created by the British in order to be armed against feared attacks by the Turkish and Persian neighboring states on the territory of Iraq, it was mainly used to maintain internal order after their failure. In 1925 the armed forces comprised 7,500 men. The officer corps were dominated by veterans of the Arab Uprising . In parallel with the Arab-Iraqi armed forces, the British had formed special units from members of the Assyrian minority. After Iraq's formal independence in 1932, these Assyrian riflemen, despised as particularly pro-British, were forcibly subjugated by the Iraqi army in 1933, which earned the previously also pro-British army patriotic sympathies from Arab nationalists.

The successful suppression of the Assyrian aspirations for autonomy (the Semile massacre ) led to the army chief General Bakr Sidqi becoming popular . In 1933 the government passed the introduction of compulsory military service against the resistance of the British . In 1936, a non-violent military coup involving Sidqi forced the installation of a new cabinet under Hikmat Suleiman . Likewise, the armed forces under Sidqi's command ended a series of tribal uprisings in 1935-36. In addition to mass executions and expulsions, villages were also bombed by the Iraqi air force. Sidqi heralded an era of political supremacy by the military as a state-supporting institution in Iraq. However, he and Suleiman were murdered in Mosul in a coup in 1937.

Before and during the Second World War , the Iraqi army was expanded by the British colonial power from 20,300 soldiers to 47,000 soldiers. During the war, nationalist circles in the army took part in an Axis- supported military coup led by Rashid Ali al-Gailani . After that, the army was deliberately weakened by the British and Iraqi leadership. 605 of 1,745 officers were arrested or dismissed. The troop strength was reduced to 25,000 men. In addition, there was a lack of basic equipment such as boots and uniforms. Due to poor food and wages, morale was low and desertion was endemic.

The Iraqi army sent a 15,000-strong expeditionary force with a total strength of 21,000 men to the Palestine War . After the war, the army was massively expanded. In 1956 their strength had tripled to 60,000. The Air Force was increased to 250 aircraft, including British jet fighter aircraft. After the fall of the monarchy in 1958, the Soviet Union began to replace the United Kingdom as Iraq's arms supplier. In the Six Day War , Iraqi participation was limited to a few air strikes, which usually had little effect. The units dispatched by President Aref no longer reached Jordan before the armistice, but remained in the country until the Jordanian Civil War . In the Yom Kippur War 60,000 were mobilized , around 18,000 of which were deployed. Organized into two tank divisions , two infantry brigades , a brigade for special operations and smaller units, they operated from Syrian territory.

Under Saddam Hussein , the armed forces were subjected to rigid controls and a totalitarian ideological program. Many officers and soldiers in war and in peace because of mistakes or alleged traitors executed . Organizations were also created with the People's Paramilitary Army and the Republican Guard which questioned the status of the armed forces as the nation's only armed forces. Political officers were assigned to the units down to the battalion level and promotion was based on loyalty and family ties. Saddam retained tight control over the smallest of decisions during his wars. The last years of the First Gulf War were an exception , when Saddam allowed the army more freedom of choice. However, the officers responsible were dismissed, imprisoned or executed after the war . However, members of the armed forces had high social prestige and were generously financially supported by the regime.

T-72 of the newly established Iraqi armed forces.

At the end of the First Gulf War, Iraq had more than 120 divisions and 1,500 combat aircraft , with the country having acquired military equipment primarily from Soviet and French production. The devastating defeat in the Second Gulf War against an international alliance led by the United States led to a severe reduction in the armed forces to 23 divisions and fewer than 300 aircraft. Even if the number of soldiers remained constant at 375,000 men, the foreign policy isolation of the country and the economic embargo against Saddam Hussein's regime led to chronic undersupply at all levels. This became evident when the US allies invaded in 2003, when the Iraqi military, apart from house-to-house fighting , was unable to muster any significant resistance. The conscripts in particular usually surrendered quickly.

Armed forces after the defeat in the Iraq war

After the complete occupation of Iraq , the armed forces of the former regime under Saddam Hussein were disbanded by the interim administration on May 23, 2003 and all soldiers were dismissed. A large number of the military legacies were destroyed.

After a short time, the new Iraqi security forces were re-established with the support of the USA , Great Britain , Australia and Jordan . The NATO granted this training support. In Iraq, however, the “coalition forces”, primarily the USA and Great Britain as the main part of the Multi-National Force Iraq, were responsible for internal and external security in the country and worked closely with the new Iraqi army. It was noteworthy that the soldiers of the Iraqi army could also be members of local militias ; on the uniform the badge of the army unit is then worn next to that of the militia unit.

An Iraqi soldier in Baghdad in the fall of 2007

The reconstruction of the armed forces often followed the ideas of the United States. H. a reduction in manpower in favor of a better equipped and more professional military. The aim of the current measures is to enable the new Iraqi security forces to exercise control over the entire country. The procedure here is to dig well-equipped core units, which can then be expanded step by step. This also explains why current brigade units are declared as " divisions ".

The Iraqi National Guard, which had initially been established , was disbanded by the USA by December 2004, as it became clear that parts of it converted to insurgents or deserted . See: 1. Battle of Fallujah - Operation Vigilant Resolve On April 18, 2007, Maysan was handed over to the Iraqi armed forces as the fourth of 18 provinces in the country for sovereign security purposes.

On April 19, 2007, the Iraqi Military Intelligence Academy , a military academy for training in intelligence methods, was opened.

The Kurdish regional government gained sovereign authority over its first three provinces through a ceremonial handover by the USA on June 1, 2007. The Peshmerga units were responsible for security . Regular units of the Iraqi army were not able to provide security without the support of coalition troops. US soldiers complained about the unreliability of their Iraqi allies. The New York Times reported that after battles with the US Army, ID cards indicate that some of the insurgents' dead were Iraqi soldiers. Several officers were suspected of supplying the insurgents with weapons and ammunition intended for the Iraqi army. According to a study by the American think tank CSIS in May 2008, the Iraqi military suffered from high turnover, a shortage of officers and non-commissioned officers, a lack of anchoring in the civilian population and a lack of integration among the groups represented in society.

In March 2009, Iraq announced that it had ordered 140 M1A1s in four tranches. On June 30, 2009, American combat troops left the cities and handed over their bases and other facilities to the Iraqi armed forces. The last US combat troops left the country in August 2010, and there have been 50,000 instructors and military advisers in the country since then . Their withdrawal was completed on December 18, 2011.

During the Iraq crisis in 2014 , massive weaknesses became apparent in the Iraqi armed forces. As the terrorist IS militia advanced , officers and soldiers fled from around 1,000 IS fighters in Mosul, for example, around 60,000 soldiers and police officers. Of the 146 M1A1 tanks that have since been delivered, up to 30 tanks fell into enemy hands in 2014. The army left almost a third of Iraqi territory (mostly Sunnis inhabited) to the Islamists of IS.

Front line as of March 30, 2017
  • Held by Iraqi forces and Shiite militias
  • Held by the Islamic State
  • Held by Kurdish Peshmerga
  • On 17 October 2016, began major offensive of the Iraqi armed forces to retake the northern Iraqi city of Mosul from the hands of terrorists operating Sunni militia Islamic State (IS). The armed forces are supported by Kurdish Peshmerga units , Assyrian-Christian , Sunni and Shiite militiamen as well as US units and fighter planes of the anti-IS coalition . This is the largest military operation since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003. As a spokesman for the Iraqi armed forces announced, IS still holds 6 percent of Iraqi national territory. By comparison, in 2014 it held 40 percent.

    Management staff

    The commander in chief is the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi . The armed forces are subordinate to the Defense Ministry under the leadership of the Defense Minister, since October 2014 this has been Khalid al-Obeidi. The Chief Joint Forces of the Iraqi armed forces was currently General Babaker Schawkat B. Zebari until 2015 .

    Armed forces

    The military of Iraq is divided into three branches .


    Soldiers from the Iraqi 9th Armored Division near Mushada in May 2006
    Iraqi M1A1M in January 2011

    First, a civil defense corps (were English Iraqi Civil Defense Corps, ICDC ) and a paramilitary police (ger .: Iraqi Police Service , IPS) built. The ICD Corps consisted of a. from the 60th ICDC Brigade. The army was then further developed as the Iraqi Ground Forces (IGFC) and in 2005 had a strength of around 27,000 men, of which 2,000 were soldiers for special operations.

    In January 2006, 106,900 soldiers belonged to the new armed forces, which are divided into 2 divisions , 8 brigades and 37 battalions .

    In the meantime, more than 138,000 soldiers serve in this branch of the armed forces in 10 divisions. A further increase to 12 divisions is planned. In 2008 the IGFC was structured as follows:

    An indefinite number of logistics battalions and telecommunications units are under construction .

    By October 2009 the number had risen to 194,127 army soldiers in 165 battalions. A further expansion to up to 208 battalions is planned.

    Since IS began its offensive in Iraq in mid-2014, the exact strength of the army has been difficult to assess due to desertions and losses.


    A patrol boat (P104) of the new Iraqi Navy at
    Umm Qasr base , June 2004

    In January 2004 the new Iraqi Navy (Iraqi Coastal Defense Force (ICDF)) was founded, which has its own patrol boats . On January 12, 2005, the ICDF was officially renamed the Iraqi Navy, although the USA had not previously intended to form a maritime branch. It serves primarily to protect against terrorists and is also intended to secure the oil platforms and is also trained by the Australian Navy. The Iraqi Navy comprised around 1,887 soldiers in October 2009 and is structured as follows:

    • 1 Naval Squadron, coastal defense forces with the base Umm Qasr, consisting of 10 patrol boats, among other things equipped with a 27 mm on-board cannon. From 2007 the Navy will receive new Al Faw boats. As of 2007, the Navy is to have Assault Boat Squadron and Auxiliary Support Squadron.
    • 1st SSS Battalion, Iraqi Marines
    • Development of support and auxiliary staff (from 2007: Auxiliary Support Squadron)

    The main naval bases are Umm Qasr , the port of Basra and the Khor al-Amaya Oil Terminal (KAAOT).

    air force

    → see main article: Iraqi Air Force

    Control of the airspace was primarily the responsibility of the US-led coalition forces. The new Iraqi Air Force (القوة الجوية العراقية / al-Quwwa al-Dschawwiyya al-ʿIraqiyya ) comprised around 2,148 soldiers in October 2009 and therefore served rather as support for the army . It had 85 aircraft. The commander was General Kamal Barzanji .

    The structure of the Air Force at that time:

    • three squadrons of support helicopters ( 2nd , 4th and 12th squadron ), including machines of the types Bell UH-1 H (from Jordan), Bell 206 B and Mi-17 .
    • an air transport squadron ( 23rd Squadron ) in Baghdad (Al Muthanna Air Base) with C-130E Hercules transport aircraft from stock of the USAF and two reconnaissance squadrons ( 3rd and 70th Squadron ).

    An order for 18 US Air Force F-16 fighter jets was postponed in early 2011 to fund a food program as a preventive measure against the 2010–2011 protests in the Arab world . The order for a further 18 aircraft was announced in July 2011. The training of the first pilots was planned until 2014. [outdated]

    In March 2009, 24 EC635 training helicopters were ordered for delivery by the end of 2011. The first two copies were delivered in the first half of 2011.

    When IS started its offensive in Iraq in mid-2014, the new Iraqi air force actually had three propeller-driven Cessna AC-208 fighter aircraft that had been armed with American Hellfire missiles. In view of the advance of IS, Iraq forced the reconstruction of its air force. In July 2014, the Iraqi armed forces reportedly received their first delivery of five used Russian Sukhoi Su-25 fighter aircraft . The official handover of the first F-16 C fighter aircraft has now also taken place. Iraq claims that it first used the F-16 against IS in September 2015.

    Special forces ISOF

    The ISOF (Iraqi Special Operations Forces) is an Iraqi elite combat unit for counter-terrorism and security tasks, for example at airports. It comprises the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Force (ICTF), consisting of a task force, a command battalion, a support battalion and a reconnaissance company. The total troop strength is estimated at nine battalions and at least 4,500 men, with the number is expected to double in the next few years. The general assessments of the ISOF's clout vary from “the best unit in the Iraqi military” to “the most effective force in the region”.

    The project for an Iraqi special force began to take shape shortly after the capture of Baghdad in April 2003. In the years that followed, young Iraqi volunteers were trained by the US Special Forces and, from April 2007, gradually placed under Iraqi control. In addition, special ISOF units received anti-disinformation training from the Defense Information School at Fort George G. Meade , and it is planned that the four regional ISOF command bases in Iraq will each have their own intelligence gathering unit by the end of 2009.

    Unlike the military and the police, the ISOF is not subordinate to the Ministry of Defense or the Interior, as is usual in other countries, but, at the insistence of the USA, to a specially created anti-terrorist agency, which in turn reports directly to the Iraqi Prime Minister . This lack of institutional control has been criticized in the American media. The weekly magazine The Nation fears that a new death squad is emerging in Iraq in the hands of the newly created executive, with which political opposition members as well as official tasks are to be prosecuted. As an indication of such a development, the magazine cites, among other things, the deployment of ISOF units against the government seat of the Diyala province in August 2008, when a member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party and the Sunni rector of the university were arrested.


    Training an Iraqi soldier on the AK-47 by an officer of the States United Marine Corps .

    By 2003, the country had acquired military equipment mainly from Soviet and French production. The reconstruction of the armed forces often followed the ideas of the USA. The Iraqi government may have a. announced the acquisition of between 600 and 800 M60 main battle tanks and almost 4,000 armored troop transports .

    In May 2007, the US began supplying M16 assault rifles instead of the Kalashnikov, which is widely used in the Middle East . The handing over of the new rifles is, however, to a registration u. a. bound with biometric data to prevent it from being passed on to resistance fighters.

    So far, 200,000 M16 rifles and 40,000 more M4A1 rifles from US stocks have been delivered to the Iraqi armed forces.

    By 2011, the Iraqi armed forces had been equipped with 146 modern M1A1 -Abrams tanks from the stocks of the US armed forces .

    In view of the advance of IS, Iraq pushed ahead with the reconstruction of its air force in particular. The Iraqi armed forces received Russian Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack aircraft and the first F-16C fighter aircraft .

    Web links

    Commons : Iraqi Armed Forces  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. CRS-Report for Congress (PDF; 590 kB) of October 28, 2009. Accessed on March 17, 2010.
    2. : Iraqi Army (IA) (accessed January 5, 2016)
    3. a b c d Kenneth Pollack: Arabs at War , Lincoln, 2004, pp. 148-266
    4. Adeed Dawisha: Iraq - A political history from Independence to Occupation , Princeton, 2009, p 36f
    5. Abbas Khadim: Civil-Military Relations in Iraq (1921–2006): An Introductory Survey , Strategic Insights, Volume V, Issue 5 (May 2006), available online in PDF format , last accessed on November 19, 2011
    6. Adeed Dawisha: Iraq - A political history from Independence to Occupation , Princeton, 2009, p 36f
    7. a b Adeed Dawisha: Iraq: A Political History from Independence to Occupation , 2011. S. 100f
    8. Efraim Karsh, Inari Rautsi: Saddam Hussein - A political biography , New York, 1991, pp. 187ff
    9. a b c U.S. Military Keeps Faith With Iraqi Forces, Congress Doesn't . Article ( Memento of the original from September 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. in the online edition of the Weekly Standard on April 23, 2007. Accessed May 17, 2007 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
    10. Fourth Iraqi Province Transfers to Local Control Pentagon Intelligence Article , April 18, 2007. Accessed June 7, 2007.
    11. ^ New Iraqi Military Intelligence Academy Facility Opens . Article ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. on the Pentagon- initiated Defend America website , April 19, 2007. Accessed May 17, 2007.  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
    12. ^ Responsibility For Security in Three Northern Provinces Transferred to Iraqis . Accessed June 7, 2007.
    13. Anthony Cordesman and Adam Mausner: The Iraqi Security Forces in May 2008: Progress, Problems, and Trends ( Memento of the original from August 13, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 2.5 MB), May 2008. Accessed August 3, 2008. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
    14. Giordono, Joseph: US tanks going to Iraqi army  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in: Stars and Stripes , March 12, 2009. Accessed March 12, 2009.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
    15. Reuters: Reuters : US combat troops have left Iraqi cities , June 30, 2009
    16. MSNBC : Last full US combat brigade leaves Iraq, August 18, 2010
    17. ^ Spiegel Online : Withdrawal of the Americans: Last US troops leave Iraq on December 18, 2011
    18. ^ Rainer Hermann : Advance on four fronts . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of October 18, 2016, p. 2.
    19. US jet fighters, drones strike ISIS fighters, convoys in Iraq . August 9, 2014. Retrieved August 9, 2014.
    20. The Wall Street Journal: Sunni tribes in Iraq make devil pact with Isis
    21. ^ IS stronghold: 100,000 soldiers in the battle for Mosul . In: Tagesschau (ARD) , December 29, 2016. Accessed March 25, 2017.
    22. ^ Army: West Mosul freed 90 percent from IS . In: Deutschlandfunk , May 16, 2017. Retrieved May 17, 2017.
    23. Iraq diverts F-16 budget for food rations , February 15, 2011, accessed December 15, 2011
    24. July 12, 2011: USA plan fighter jet deal with Iraq
    25. Nathan Hodge: US F-16 Sale to Iraq Remains a Distant Target ,, December 14, 2011, accessed December 15, 2011
    26. Iraq to receive 24 Eurocopter EC635 light helicopters ( Memento of the original from March 4, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , March 26, 2009, accessed December 15, 2011  @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
    27. Future Of Iraqi Air Force , August 10, 2011, accessed December 15, 2011
    28. Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle, June 2011 , Access 3 January 2012
    29. Air Forces Monthly, April 2011, mentioned , accessed January 3, 2012
    30. ntv on August 5, 2014: Iraq's Air Force is "dangerous" - Maliki's Rumble Air Force
    31. With old fighter jets against ISIS ( Memento from July 1, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), on June 29, 2014
    32. Iraq Has Brand New F-16s, But Can't Use Them Against ISIS Yet , on June 12, 2014 (Eng.)
    33. Iraq uses F-16 against IS for the first time , n-tv on September 7, 2015
    34. a b c d Shane Bauer: The Dirty Brigade of Baghdad . Le Monde Diplomatique on July 10, 2009
    35. a b Mike Meares: Iraqi soldiers taught 'strength through truth' in PA course ., August 18, 2008 (English)
    36. See The Nation, June 3, 2009. On the Internet:
    37. Iraqi Recruits Begin Receiving US M-16s . Article  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. by on May 11, 2007. Accessed May 17, 2007.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
    38. ^ Agence France-Presse: Iraq takes delivery of American tanks., August 9, 2010, accessed June 10, 2013 .
    39. Iraqi Army receives last shipment of Abrams tanks., September 6, 2011, accessed June 10, 2013 .
    40. 6 more tanks., October 5, 2010, accessed June 10, 2013 .