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In a positive step for U.S.-Iraq relations, the two countries have reached a deal in which the United States will sell Iraq unmanned aerial drones and other military equipment. Iraq’s navy will use the drones to protect its oil reserves within the country’s territory in the Persian Gulf.
The U.S. Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq, headed by Gen. Robert Caslen, hopes that this sale will enable Iraq to be a dependable source of oil, a valuable asset given the recent sanctions on neighboring Iran. A steady outflow of oil should lessen the pressure on oil prices both in the United States and in Europe. The sale of the drones was confirmed by the office but no other details were provided.
Iraqi oil must travel through a number of straits and passageways that are susceptible to terror and other criminal activities or acts of war. Iran has threatened to blockade the area in the past. Ali al-Moussawi, an adviser to the Iraqi prime minister, believes that “Iraq should have the ability to protect itself against outside aggression.”
Iraq has stated that it is not concerned whether or not Iran will view the move as a threat. The drones will enable Iraq to keep 24 hour surveillance of its precious resources. Iraq is currently training engineers to man the drones and plans to be ready to use the drones late this year.
Gen. Caslen has said that “They understand the importance of the mission to protect its oil platforms.”Iraq has been responsible for securing the oil reserves since 2005, but had the help of the United States until American troops withdrew in late 2011.
Since the U.S. pulled out of Iraq, the OPEC country has increased its oil production to 3 million barrels a day from about 2.5 million barrels a day. Its oil industry was previously crippled due to long wars and harsh sanctions against ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. Iraq’s deputy prime minister for energy, Hussain al-Shahristani, estimates that production will grow to 10 million barrels per day within the decade. Iraq has the world’s fourth largest oil reserve infrastructure.
The sale of the drones is meant to strengthen U.S.-Iraqi relations. The ties have been in a fragile state since the United States entered Iraq in 2003. Iraq has already agreed to purchase more than $15 billion worth of American military equipment, including F-16 fighter jets, tanks, and armored personnel carriers. Iraq maintains that all of its purchases are to be used for defensive purposes.