US Sends 36 F-16s to Iraq, Trains Iraqi Pilots

In 2003, a US-led invasion all but obliterated Iraq’s air force. After living under US occupation for 8 years, leading to the rise of Al Qaeda affiliated groups in the region, the Middle Eastern nation has plunged into political chaos that may escalate into a civil war. In August of 2013, the US government agreed to send $2.6 billion to Iraq for the provision of an air defense system and contracted with Lockheed Martin Corp to provide the war-torn nation with F-16s. President Obama has also accelerated shipments of surveillance drones to the Iraqi government.

Reuters is reporting that the first of those 36 F-16s are officially ready to ship and will soon be on their way to Iraq. The US government will present the fighter jets to Iraqi Ambassador Lukman Faily at a ceremony tomorrow at a Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas. Iraqi fighter pilots have received F-16 flight training from the US Air Force in Tuscon. In an article by the 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs division of the Air National Guard, the Iraqi Air Force Chief was quoted as saying, “They (IqAF pilots) will return to our country – then transfer that American experience of training to the next generation of Iraqi air force pilots.”

Meanwhile, Iraq has also forged military contracts with Russia, and US defense contractors have begun to shift their focus from providing weapons for US military engagements to providing munitions like F-16s to foreign nations overseas.

The US government has often provided military weaponry and training to governments and rebel groups in unstable regions, sometimes leading to catastrophic results, such as when the CIA-trained terrorist Osama bin Laden turned against the US and launched the devastating 9/11 attacks, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Americans. As Iraq descends into a possible civil war, questions are being raised as to whether or not these weapons will remain in the hands of the US-backed government or whether a future political crisis might lead them to be used against Americans.

The US has also provided Iraq with 100 Hellfire missiles, assault rifles, and 11 million rounds of ammunition. In related news, PBS Frontline has just launched a new documentary in which Al Nusra affiliated Syrian rebels describe the training that they allegedly received at the hands of the US government. In January of 2013, the US government sent F-16s to Egypt, just months before a July coup in which the Egyptian military ousted then-President Mohamed Morsi.

As US tax dollars are being used to fund a weapons build-up in the Middle East, the nation faces an unprecedented debt crisis. On the other hand, Lockheed Martin Corp’s stocks are, quite predictably, on the rise.