Iraqi Forces Add Russian Guns to US Tanks for ISIL Fight

TEL AVIV, Israel — Earlier this month, Shia militiamen in Iraq dropped off an American-supplied Abrams tank at a US-supported repair facility where workers were surprised to find an attached Russian machine gun plus Iranian ammo, Defense News has learned.

The MIA1 main battle tank — one of 146 frontline tanks the US sold to Baghdad — was transported through the Green Zone to a US-supported Iraqi service facility at al-Muthanna that was established as part of the Pentagon’s Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.

The tank was equipped with a Russian .50-caliber machine gun and Iranian-stamped 12.75-mm ammunition, according to a source at the facility.

“They brought it in through Iraqi checkpoints, back-rolled it off the trailer and then drove away,” recounted the source.

“Once all the ammo was removed, as per procedure, by Iraqi personnel, we noticed Iranian markings on the back of the shell casings. Seems they put a Russian machine gun with Iranian ammunition on an Abrams tank.”

As Washington scrambles to adapt to the myriad, Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting alongside its US-trained and -supplied partners in Iraq, new manifestations of shifting alliances may threaten the relevance of US end-use monitoring in that war-torn country.

After US-led coalition airstrikes were forced to destroy about 10 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs) seized from the Iraqi Army by the Islamic State group, often called ISIL or ISIS, Washington is now grappling with the phenomenon of their voluntary transfer to Shiite forces battling in concert with Baghdad against the fanatical Sunni Caliphate.

Foreign Military Sales violation?

The US-Russian tank hybrid could constitute twin violations of Iraq’s FMS agreements with Washington, due to unauthorized use by Shiite militias and the unsanctioned addition of the Russian gun and Iranian ammo, Pentagon officials say.

“Any time you do a foreign military sale, there’s a requirement that you do end-use monitoring, and it’s a violation if you do alterations,” Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) told Defense News.

The presence of hybrid M1 Abrams tanks was confirmed to Defense News by Dr. Wathaq al-Hashimi, director of the Iraqi Group for Strategic Studies. “Iraq has been dependent on a number of different weapons suppliers, therefore they have integrated these weapons onto different platforms to achieve effectiveness.”

Al-Hashimi said this isn’t the first time Iraqi forces — looking for more firepower to battle ISIL — have integrated Russian weapons systems onto American platforms.

“Russian systems were placed on American M1 Abrams tanks specially with armor-piercing rocket systems to be used against ISIL explosive cars used in their attacks,” he said. “In Beiji [in Northern Iraq], there were 28 explosive cars used in one day and in Ramadi 15 cars were blown on another day.”

Iraqi forces need to integrate different systems as they receive weapons from American, Russian, Iranian and European sources, al-Hashimi said.

“This integration may very well lead to a problem between the US and Iraq due to the purchase agreements,” he said. “However, there was a real problem and threat from the ISIS-armored explosive cars which led the prime minister to travel to Moscow with the minister of defense to acquire these rocket systems which were placed on the tanks.”

Iraq has a long history and experience in weapons and hybridization, al-Hashimi said, noting that Iraqi military experts may have acquired assistance from some of the estimated 5,000 to 6,000 international consultants present in the country from many countries including Russia, the US, Iran and France.

With Thursday being a national holiday, Iraq’s Ministry of Defense could not be reached for comment.

‘This Is Not What We’re Going to Do’

Interviewed in Washington this week at the annual Association of the US Army conference, neither Rixey, the Pentagon’s FMS chief, nor Maj. Gen. Mark McDonald, chief of the US Army Security Assistance Command, had knowledge of the event recounted to Defense News. However, both men suggested that their Iraqi customers had an obligation to report such occurrences in a timely and accurate manner.

“If they brought it into the maintenance facility, then that should be reported to our US folks there, and then we can have a discussion about how, ‘This is not what we’re going to do,’” McDonald said.

McDonald was deputy commander at the time the Iraqi tank deal was concluded, and noted that the FMS contract includes a maintenance package that covers the facility in question. “We eventually got them to buy the maintenance and training package, so I do know there is an ongoing maintenance effort going on over there under our FMS contract, with a US company doing the maintenance.”

The in-country source noted that it was the first time he had encountered the hybridization of the Abrams to accommodate the Russian gun and Iranian ammo.

“It could be an isolated event or it could mark the beginning of something worrisome. It’s too early to tell … but given the strange bedfellows over there in the Amber Zone, you never know.”

He was referring to the area adjacent to Baghdad’s US-dominated Green Zone, where, since the Iraqi Army’s stinging string of defeats at the hands of ISIL, sovereign Iraqi forces are cooperating — and often interoperating — with Iranian-backed Shiite militias against their common enemy.

The area designated as Amber Zone is now home to two regiments of Iraq’s 9th Armored Divison, each with 35 Abrams MBTs, a contingent from the Iranian Quds Force, Hezbollah, the Asa’ib al-Haq (AAH) and at least one other Shia militia loosely organized under the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), which is ostensibly under the command and control of the government in Baghdad.

US and Israeli intelligence sources note that Iran has flooded the Iraqi theater with billions of dollars worth of weaponry and ammunition since the Baghdad-sanctioned formation of the PMF in June 2014.

Washington also continues to send US State Department-approved and congressionally notified weaponry to Iraq on condition that US materiel remains under the strict command and control of Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).

But a video posted in January, in which a convoy of US vehicles, including an Abrams MBT, was shown flying the Hezbollah flag as they passed through the Iraqi desert offered circumstantial evidence that Iranian-controlled forces under the PMF umbrella have gained access to US-origin hardware.

At the time, Iraqi officials sought to assure their US counterparts that the convoy in the video was still under ISF control, and that the Hezbollah banner was simply displayed in solidarity for the Shiite militia sacrificing on their behalf.

Similarly, when told about the latest development, a source in Washington speculated that the hybrid tank could have been delivered to the facility by militiamen acting as drivers or subcontractors to the ISF. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that the tank was in direct control of the militias. We simply don’t know,” he said.

Yet another source suggested that the overabundance of Iranian ammunition and the preference many Iraqi soldiers still have for Russian-origin machine guns may have triggered an ad hoc rigging of the US tank for purposes of convenience.

US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Florida, declined comment on the reported hybrid Abrams MBT or on the constitution of forces in the Amber Zone, referring all queries to the Combined Joint Task Force at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait.

There, US Sgt. Vanessa Kilmer referred Defense News to CJTF’s Media Ops Center, where, after 24 hours, detailed questions submitted to Sgt. First Class Eric Rodriguez were returned with “no additional information on this subject” and a recommendation to contact the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

A US State Department official said he would need more information to determine whether Iraq could or should be held accountable for any end-use violations.

“We have made clear that the coalition will only support Iraqi efforts against ISIL that are under clear ISF command and control. We have received assurances from the government of Iraq and the Iraqi Security Forces that they will use US equipment in accordance with US law and our bilateral agreements,” the official said.

Section 40A of the US Arms Export Control Act mandates two forms of end use monitoring (EUM): the Blue Lantern program managed by the State Department and the Golden Sentry program delegated to the Pentagon’s Defense Security and Cooperation Agency.

The former focuses on pre-checks before an export license is granted and post-checks to determine that the designated materiel has reached intended end users. The latter, managed by primarily by the Pentagon’s in-country security assistance officers aims to ensure that recipients are using the equipment properly as stipulated in various government-to-government agreements.

“Our mandate to conduct assessments in-country and to visit military installations is agreed upon by the Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA), which have notes and provisos that commit the recipients to proper end-use assurances,” a Pentagon official told Defense News in an interview two years ago.

At the time, the Pentagon official said DSCA works in concert with the State Department “in order to try to bring a united front from a US government perspective.”

Retired Israel Air Force Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, said he would not be surprised if Hezbollah forces in Iraq or even Syria had access to frontline American MBTs. “It’s not surprising, because the Iraqi Army and the Shia militias and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and some American Special Forces are now fighting against the same enemy,” Yadlin said.

When asked if Abrams tanks in the hands of Hezbollah or other Iranian-controlled militias posed a concern to Israel, the former fighter pilot replied: “The dream of every Israeli helicopter pilot is to see this kind of vehicle against the background of the bare desert.”

CLASS ACT! Vladimir Putin says there’s only one reason the U.S. has failed to destroy ISIS: Obama is using them as a proxy army against Assad

830441b9069abbf9c7b7cb61037642-viRussia has struck over 110 ISIS targets in Syria in just two weeks. Over 40% of the Islamic State’s infrastructure has reportedly been destroyed already. The U.S. allegedly has been bombing ISIS targets in Syria for more than a year, yet failed to weaken ISIS at all. Military experts report that most U.S. bombers that went out on missions in Syria came back with their arsenals intact….as ordered by the Commander-in-Chief. In short, the airstrikes were all for show.

Truthstream Media It was recently noted by Putin that, by the time Russia showed up and started systematically destroying ISIS in short order, there were already 11 other countries bombing Syria.  In fact, it has been over a year since America started an airstrike campaign over there which accomplished virtually nothing.

It hardly needs to be pointed out how blatantly obvious it is that, regardless of how many billions the American people were told just had to be spent “fighting the terrorists” over there, this was never for one hot second about the West actually stopping ISIS.

The only way that lie works is if the Western coalition is the most inept terror rescue team ever invented in the history of time. Further, instead of applauding Putin’s timely and efficient intervention in Syria, the West is protesting Russia’s involvement and bombing of terrorists.

 

VLADIMIR PUTIN bombs Islamic terrorists in Syria while Barack Hussein Obama pulls America’s last aircraft carrier out of the Persian Gulf

As Russian warships rain down cruise missiles as part of its military strike in Syria, there’s now a glaring absence in the region: For the first time since 2007, the U.S. Navy has no aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf.

The USS Theodore Roosevelt — a massive, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — has had a central role in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, when the U.S.-led coalition started bombing the Islamist extremists.

NBC News  Military officials said Thursday that they’ve pulled the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which is home to about 5,000 service members and 65 combat planes, so that it can undergo ‘maintenance.’ (Yeah, sure) The ship officially exited the gulf around 11 p.m. ET.

The lack of a U.S. presence in the gulf comes as Russia is escalating its actions in the region and began pounding targets in Syria last week with airstrikes. Russian officials say they’re trying to obliterate ISIS, although the U.S. and its allies say they’re instead hitting rebel fighters who oppose Syrian President Bashar Assad, a Russian ally. (Yes, that too)

Putin_Obama_Pen_Phone_Tanks

Russia remains a wild card in the region — and the absence of an American aircraft carrier is being noticed, said Peter Daly, a retired Navy vice admiral and CEO of the U.S. Naval Institute. “The most important thing you need a carrier for is for what you don’t know is going to happen next,” Daly told NBC News.

That was especially important during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when the Navy often had two carriers operating in the region. The combat planes can fly into war zones and generally act as a show of force to Iran and other nations during tense standoffs.

putin-fight-the-terrorists

The USS Theodore Roosevelt — a massive, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier — has had a central role in the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria since August 2014, when the U.S.-led coalition started bombing the Islamist extremists.

A Navy official told Washington lawmakers in July that the lack of a carrier was imminent — and could potentially hamstring operations. “Without that carrier, there will be a detriment to our capability there,” Adm. John Richardson said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, prior to his confirmation in the Navy’s top post.

Russian airstrikes kill 2 ISIS commanders, 300 militants – Defense Ministry Says. 

Russian air forces carried out 67 sorties, striking 60 separate targets in northern Syria in the past 24 hours, the Defense Ministry has reported. Two senior Islamic State field commanders are reportedly among some 300 militants killed in the strikes.

“Among the targets are the communication hubs, command posts, fuel stores and terrorist training bases located located in Raqqa, Latakia, Idlip, Aleppo and Hama,” said deputy chief of staff Lieutenant-General Igor Makushev, in a Moscow media briefing.

Makushev said that drone footage verified that a precision hit destroyed the headquarters of Liwa-al-Haqq, an Islamist group, which has been fighting the government of Bashar Assad since 2012. Russia said that a radio intercept confirmed the deaths of 200 fighters, and two commanders, who Makushev said belonged to Islamic State.

Another 100 Islamists were killed in an airstrike near Aleppo, in which Russian Sukhoi jets destroyed a base and armaments store housed in a former prison.

LISTEN MORE:

In total the airstrikes destroyed six communication hubs, six armories, 17 training bases and 17 armored vehicles, the Russian official said.

“The militants are sustaining significant losses from the airstrikes, and are having to adjust their tactics, spreading out over a wider area, concealing themselves more thoroughly, or hiding in urban settlements,” Makushev said.

“In these conditions, the Russian air forces are continuing and intensifying their airstrikes.”

Russian air forces have carried out airstrikes from a specially-built base outside the government-controlled stronghold of Latakia since September 30, at the behest of Bashar Assad. About 2,000 Russian personnel have been deployed in the country, but Moscow says it has no plans to use ground forces in the fight against militants.

 

Russian Air Force destroys 29 ISIS camps in Syria in 24 hours 

Russian warplanes in Syria have bombed 29 terrorist field camps and other facilities of the militant group Islamic State in the past 24 hours, the Russian Defense Ministry reported.

Our aviation group over the past day has destroyed two militant command centers, 29 field camps, 23 fortified facilities and several troop positions with military hardware,” ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Saturday.

The Russian Air Force conducted 64 sorties and hit a total of 55 targets, he said.

He added that the Russian effort has “considerably degraded” the strength of the terrorist forces in Syria.

During the initial phase of the operation, our warplanes have destroyed the biggest and most important supply hubs of ISIL,” Konashenkov said, calling Islamic State by its former name. This resulted in the “mobility and offensive capability” of the jihadists being reduced, he said.

The general said signal intelligence reports indicate that the militants are suffering from a shortage of fuel and ammunition after the Russian bombings. “Some of them are demoralized and are actively leaving the battle zone, moving in eastern and northeastern directions,” he said.

Konashenkov said that the increasing number of combat missions conducted by Russia in Syria is explained by the large number of potential targets identified and confirmed as viable by space and aerial reconnaissance.

Russia started its bombing campaign in Syria last week with a goal to provide air support to the government troops fighting against various terrorist groups, primarily Islamic State. This allowed Damascus to go on the offensive in Hama province on Friday.

Russia has also reported killing 2 ISIS commanders, and three hundred militants.

 

Russia Claims ISIS Now On The Ropes As Fighters Desert After 60 Airstrikes In 72 Hours 

One question that’s been asked repeatedly over the past thirteen months is why Washington has been unable to achieve the Pentagon’s stated goal of “degrading and defeating” ISIS despite the fact that the “battle” pits the most advanced air force on the planet against what amounts to a ragtag band of militants running around the desert in basketball shoes.

Those of a skeptical persuasion have been inclined to suggest that perhaps the US isn’t fully committed to the fight. Explanations for that suggestion range from the mainstream (the White House is loathe to get the US into another Mid-East war) to the “conspiratorial” (the CIA created ISIS and thus doesn’t want to destroy the group due to its value as a strategic asset).

The implication in all of this is that a modern army that was truly determined to destroy the group could likely do so in a matter of months if not weeks and so once Russia began flying sorties from Latakia, the world was anxious to see just how long the various rebel groups operating in Syria could hold up under bombardment by the Russian air force.

The answer, apparently, is “less than a week.”

On Saturday, the Russian Ministry of Defense said it has conducted 60 bombing runs in 72 hours, hitting more than 50 ISIS targets.

According to the ministry (Facebook page is here), Islamic State fighters are in a state of “panic” and more than 600 have deserted. 

Here’s what happens when the Russians locate a terrorist “command center”:

According to The Kremlin, the structure shown in the video is (or, more appropriately, “was”) “an ISIS hardened command centre near Raqqah.” Su-34s hit it with concrete-piercing BETAB-500s setting off a series of explosions and fires that “completely destroyed the object.”

Here’s RT:

Surgical airstrikes by Russian fighter jets have knocked out a number of Islamic State installations in Syria, including the battle headquarters of a jihadist group near Raqqa, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

 

“Over the past 24 hours, Sukhoi Su-34 and Su-24M fighter jets have performed 20 sorties and hit nine Islamic State installations,” Igor Konashenkov, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman, reported.

 

Konashenkov added that yesterday evening Russian aircraft went on six sorties, inflicting strikes on three terrorist installations.

 

“A bunker-busting BETAB-500 air bomb dropped from a Sukhoi Su-34 bomber near Raqqa has eliminated the command post of one of the terror groups, together with an underground storage facility for explosives and munitions,” the spokesman said.

 

Commenting on the video filmed by a Russian UAV monitoring the assault near Raqqa, Konashenkov noted, “a powerful explosion inside the bunker indicates it was also used for storing a large quantity of munitions.

 

“As you can see, a direct hit on the installation resulted in the detonation of explosives and multiple fires. It was completely demolished,” the spokesman said.

And here’s the Russian Defense Ministry taking a page out of the US Postal Service’s “neither rain, sleet, snow, nor hail” book on the way to serving notice that nothing is going to stop the Russian air force from exterminating Assad’s enemies in Syria:

Twenty-four hours a day #UAV’s are monitoring the situation in the ISIS activity areas. All the detected targets are effectively engaged day and night in any weather conditions.

Now obviously one must consider the source here, but Kremlin spin tactics aside, one cannot help but be amazed with the pace at which this is apparently unfolding. If any of the above is even close to accurate, it means that Russia is on schedule to declare victory over ISIS (and everyone else it looks like) in a matter of weeks, which would not only be extremely embarrassing for Washington, but would also effectively prove that the US has never truly embarked on an honest effort to rid Syria of the extremist groups the Western media claims are the scourge of humanity.

Summed up in 10 priceless seconds…