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04/11/2005

Cordesman on Iraqi defense procurement

Anthony_cordesman

Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, DC, has recently updated a working draft of a 173-page report on "Iraqi Force Development: The Challenges of Partnership in Nation-Building." (File is in .pdf format.)

Two incidents, cited on pp. 93-94 of the report, are of particular interest to readers of this blog:

One incident revolved around the death of two US contractors and questions over the involved contract. Dale Stoffel, a consultant with CLI USA Inc., had negotiated an agreement with Iraqi officials to repair and renovate a number of Soviet-era armored vehicles including tanks and APCs. Stoffel became concerned that the officials would not honor the contract nor pay him for work already completed. He raised his concerns with the US Department of Defense and the Pennsylvania congressional delegation.

Six days after returning to Iraq, Stoffel and Joseph Wemple were found shot to death ten miles outside of a US military base in Taj. Photos of their possessions were posted on an insurgent website.

The US Department of Defense launched an investigation and the Iraqi government denies complicity in the deaths of the two contractors. Whether elements within the Ministry of Defense were involved or not, the story gathered wide US attention and may have discouraged some companies from bidding for contracts in Iraq. Nevertheless, it did not paralyze Iraqi MOD procurement activity. In January 2005, Deputy Defense Minister Ziad Cattan signed a $20 million arms deal with the Polish state-owned weapons manufacturer Bumar PHZ.

In the second incident, public concern surrounded a sizeable transfer of funds from the Iraqi Central Bank by the Ministry of Defense. Reportedly, $300 million in US currency was removed from the bank and put aboard a plane bound for Lebanon.

Mishal Sarraf, and aide to Iraqi Defense Minister Hazim al-Shalaan, asserted that the money was used to buy armored vehicles for Iraqi personnel, including tanks and APCs. There was no public bidding for the contracts and the entire Iraqi cabinet did not vote on the deal. Sarraf stated that the arms deal had been approved by the defense minister and by three other senior Iraqi officials, one of whom was Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The aide further stated that the arms dealers could not be named because it would endanger their lives and that the deal was concluded quickly so as to rush the vehicles to Iraqi forces as quickly as possible.

Critics challenge this explanation and level charges of corruption. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi national security adviser, was unaware of the deal. He stated, “I am sorry to say that the corruption here is worse now than in the Saddam Hussein era.” The director of the Iraq Revenue Watch, Isam al-Khafaji, stated, “That’s the tragedy of Iraq: Everyone runs their business like a private fiefdom.”

It should be noted that no wrongdoings have been uncovered and that the Iraqi government flatly denies any charges of corruption. One of the leading critics of the Defense Ministry, particularly with regard to the arms deal, was Ahmed Chalabi, the discredited member of the Iraqi National Congress who was running for a seat in the Iraqi parliament. Chalabi and Shalaan are enemies, and it is possible that the charges are politically motivated. Shalaan vowed to arrest Chalabi and turn him over to Interpol, although nothing actually happened.

Cordesman suggests too that the level of support the Ministry of Defense provides to Iraqi troops in the field is inadequate:

Some Iraqi soldiers in the field also complained about the level of funding and equipment that they receive from the Ministry of Defense. One Iraqi colonel with the Iraqi Army’s 305th “Tiger” Battalion, a unit formally given control of parts of Baghdad by the US, stated that the ministry is so disorganized that it doesn’t even know what parts of the city the unit controls. Furthermore, the colonel stated, his unit receives approximately $133 a month, not enough even to supply the unit with paper.61 Whether the colonel’s complaints about the ministry are widespread among the Iraqi forces remains unclear.

Clearly, this is no way to run a reconstruction.

Posted by Rodger on April 11, 2005 at 10:50 AM | Permalink

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