US sale of combat planes to Iraq concerns IDF

36 F-16 fighter planes approved by Pentaqon for Baghdad last year are comparable to those in IAF inventories.

US Air Force F-16 during takeoff 370 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Air Force F-16 during takeoff 370 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israel is increasingly concerned with the military build-up in Iraq amid intelligence reports that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) is solidifying its presence in the country, according to a senior IDF officer.
Of particular concern is the Pentagon’s approval in late 2011 of the sale of 36 F- 16 multi-role combat aircraft to Iraq. The planes will be built by Lockheed Martin in the US and are Block 52 F-16s, meaning that they are of the same configuration as Israel’s F-16Is, called Sufa (Storm).
“We are carefully watching the developments in Iraq,” the IDF officer said.
“The possible developments there are not immediate, but since the US withdrawal from Iraq we do not know what will evolve there.”
Israel’s concern was demonstrated in the Halamish multi-year procurement plan, which the IDF General Staff approved in late 2011 but has yet to implement due to continued disagreements between the Defense Ministry and the Treasury over the size of the defense budget for the coming five years.
In the IDF’s strategic analysis for the region – which serves as the foundation for the procurement plans – Iraq once again appears as a potential threat to Israel, something it has not posed since the US invasion of the country in 2003.
In addition to F-16s, the Iraqis have also purchased C-130 transport aircraft from the US, as well as a variety of land platforms, like armored vehicles.
Israel’s concern is compounded by intelligence reports that the “Al-Quds Force” – the IRGC branch responsible for overseas operations – has been solidifying its presence in the country and is meddling in internal political affairs.
As it did in 2010 after the US announced a $60 billion sale of military hardware to Saudi Arabia, Israel has refrained from actively lobbying against the sale of the aircraft. This is due to an understanding that the US makes these sales in order to try and retain a level of influence over other countries, and that these nations would turn instead to Russia if the US didn’t sell them the equipment.