Archive for category Iraq

Canada did not stay out of Iraq War –

An inciteful article in reminds us that despite all the back patting, Canada did not stay out of the Iraq war, and was involved in many ways, including blockading of sea lanes. Furthermore it was only massive public outrage that kept the government of the day from committing troops to the ground invasion.

Warm and fuzzies: Canadian mythmaking on the 10th anniversary of a slaughter By Matthew Behrens,| March 19, 2013

This past week has provided Canadians with a series of warm and fuzzies that, like most of this nation’s mythology, were built on self-congratulatory lies. From the breathless and ankle-deep CBC and CTV interviews with former prime minister Jean Chretien to the Globe and Mail’s front-page shout out to that most disingenuous of foreign ministers, Bill Graham, the occasion was the 10th anniversary of the 2003 escalation of the 23-year war against the people of Iraq.

That numerically awkward phrase is necessary because 2003 was billed as a new war when, in fact, the aggression against the Iraqi people never ended following the 1991 slaughter from the skies. Indeed, war continued through a combination……Read more

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US bags Iraq as arms customer

Iraq will purchase US drones, ‘to protect’ its oil facilities, it was reported recently.

The number and model of the drones to be acquired has not been announced.

The US has a long history of arms sales to petro states, which balances the foreign exchange lost from huge oil imports.It was reported that Iraq has spent $15 billion recently on American tanks, fighter planes, and armoured personnel carriers. The Iraqis insist that the weapons are for defensive purposes.

American arms help to keep authoritarian elites in power, ingratiate American military advisers and suppliers into local hierarchies, and prevent a staggering balance of payments problem that would arise without high markup exports.

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US continues to fly drones in Iraq, and Iraqi Kurdistan.

The United States is continuing to fly drones in Iraq, against the wishes of the Iraqi government. There are US drones operating in Iraq in at least two known programmes, and possibly in other covert operations which are as yet undetected.

According to the New York Times, the US operating a ‘small fleet’ of surveillance drones to protect the massive US embassy, the consulates, and US personnel. They are apparently under control of the State Department, the diplomatic arm of the government, where previously drone operations had been confined to the military and the CIA.

The drones range from small helicopter drones a few inches across, to  (as one report suggests) drones the size of a Predator drone. The State Department claims that none are armed or capable of being armed (suggesting that Predator drones are not being used). Most likely these are mostly small drones for protecting convoys, but there is certainly little the Iraqi government can presently do to prevent US  ‘diplomatic’ personnel from launching surveillance drones whereever they wish, besides diplomatic outrage.

The US still has 17,000 ‘diplomatic’ staff in Iraq, based mostly in the massive embassy constructed on the outskirts of Baghdad.

It isn’t clear where the drones are launched from, although certainly the smaller drones involved could be launched from within the compound, or perhaps even from convoys travelling around Iraq.

While the flight of American drones has caused a flap, little mention is made of the American involvement in the war against PKK insurgents in Kurdistan, in Northern Iraq.

The US is known to have been supplying  Turkey surveillance information from flights over Iraqi Kurdistan to help Turkey attack  PKK insurgents. With the departure of the US military from Iraq, the Iraqi government has given permission that US operated Predator drones be flown over Iraqi Kurdistan from their new bases in Incirlik, Turkey. says that four US Predator drones were transferred to Turkey.

In this case,  the operational control of these drones is from air force bases in Nevada. According to the drones continue to fly in Iraqi airspace, with Iraqi permission.

In December, 35 civilians were killed by Turkish air raids just inside Turkey, when they were mistakenly identified by drone surveillance over Iraq as Kurdish fighters. As the civilians entered Turkey from Iraq, on a cigarette and fuel smuggling trip, they were successively attacked by a drone and then by Turkish fighter jets.   The Guardian labelled the drones as ‘Turkish’ drones, but the Turkish Aydinlik daily went so far as to suggest that first bomb was fired by a ‘US’ Predator drone.

On another front, it isn’t possible to know whether US conducts overflights of Iraq by stealth drones like the RQ-170, which would likely be undetectable by the Iraqi government. Known drone flights over neighbouring Iran are based from sites in Afghanistan, rather than from the west, so it is uncertain whether there is a covert drone presence in Iraqi skies.


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Oxford Research Group Releases Discussion Report on Drone Attacks

The Oxford Study Group discussion paper on drone attacks, titled DISCUSSION PAPER 2: DRONE ATTACKS, INTERNATIONAL LAW, AND THE RECORDING OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES OF ARMED CONFLICT can be found here.

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Small Arms Big Cause of Death in Conflict

With British machine gun maker Manroy poised to expand its operations, and the UK eager to step up exports, Britain will be expanding its role in the misery caused by small arms in conflicts around the world.

One of the biggest problems with small arms is the ‘leakage’ of weapons to a variety of actors from dictatorships and authoritarian regimes, to insurgent groups and criminal gangs. Many small arms are sold to security forces and used to repress their own populations. Small arms are easy to store and don’t quickly become obsolete, so they are often recycled from conflict to conflict.

Some small arms manufacturers actively pursue illegal markets, and in other cases arms sold to ‘legitimate’ customers are redirected to particularly unsavoury markets. Governments are often eager to increase export sales, and drop ethical considerations. The  UK Trade and Investment Defence and Security Organisation  has put the following countries on its export priority list: Algeria, Australia, Brazil, Brunei, India, Iraq, Japan, Kuwait, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the USA. (Source) Included in these countries are many authoritarian dicatorships, unstable conflict-riven countries, and western countries with a history of intervention in foreign lands. Note that the list was created before we fell out with the authoritarian Quadhafy regime in Libya. The UK government was willing to supply arms to an unstable dictatorship that only a few month later we are at war with.

Small arms are often a high cause of death in conflicts, much greater than public perception. News reports tend to focus on large scale violence and bombings, not the slow dribble of violence that goes on day after day killing large numbers of people unspectacularly and often out of sight. Small arms including machine guns are a significant source of accidental deaths.

A good source of information on small arms proliferation is the Small Arms Survey. Here is their report on Heavy Machine Guns.

The Federation of American Scientists has prepared a good article on the global threat of small arms.

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Pentagon to Have Veto Over Use of Canadian Fighters?

It appears that the Pentagon will retain control over flight codes and key software that controls the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter that Canada is in the process of purchasing.

In theory, this would make it possible for outside forces in the US military to navigate Canada’s F-35s, stop them from flying, control their targeting systems and probably many other functions.

Thus, a large portion of our sovereignty over these jets would be compromised. Canada would not be able to count on its ability to use these jets in any situation disapproved of by the US. Canada would be unable to participate in any multilateral strike force in which the US disapproved.

In the Falklands War, the US considered alllying itself with the Argentinian junta. Though it is inconceivable that it would have gone to war with the UK it is very possible that it might have interfered with the UK force tasked with liberating the Falklands. If this situation was happening in the present, and Canada was helping our ally the UK, it is possible that both countries would lose their ability to use their own Joint Strike Fighters.

While it is difficult at present to conjure a situation in which Canada would be defying US policy in its use of jet fighters, over the long lifespan of these jets there may be situations that we cannot even imagine now.

Given the current turmoil in the US government, it isn’t completely possible to predict US behaviour in the future, and we have only to remember the recent US war on Iraq to realise that there are many parties in the US government that can operate almost independently of the US government and are difficult to manage coherently. Our ability to manage our own sovereignty may rely on the machinations of the increasingly irrational American political machinery.

Perhaps the only thing worse than having overpriced weapons you don’t need is having them actually under the control of someone else.

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Turkish Use of Drones in Kurdistan

In 2007  it was reported in Haaretz that Israeli drones were being leased to Turkey for use against Kurds of the PKK in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan), using Israeli crews.

Haaretz reported separately that the Israeli supplier of Heron drones for use in Iraqi Kurdistan was also providing Israeli crews to operate them. It was reported that Heron drones were being used to target PKK rebels in northern Iraq in an offensive in December 2007. This was apparently due to the delay in IAI and Elbit providing Turkey with Heron drones as part of a contract made in 2005.

” “The delays have left the TuAF critically short of UAVs when intelligence input from those valuable reconnaissance assets are exceedingly required,” the Turkish military official was quoted as saying.

According to the Turkish newspaper, the presence of the Israeli crews is an interim solution that was offered following the delay in the delivery of the UAVs.

There is relatively little information easily accessible that describes the use of drones in Kurdistan by Turkey. This is hardly surprising due to the sensitive nature of the conflict where Turkey attacks forces in another country, and the alleged use of Israeli crews to operate these drones.

No doubt the reason Turkey wants its own drones is to make it independent of the US for intelligence about Kurdish rebels. In the actions against the Kurds in 2008 Turkey relied on intelligence from US sources, including drones over nothern Iraq, but this made them dependent on the US for information.

In 2008, Associated Press reported that a Turkish drone (a Heron leased from Israel) crashed in Kurdistan.

In January, 2010, an Iranian source reported that Turkey was about to take delivery of 4 Heron drones from Israel, and that Turkish ‘experts’ were in Israel testing them.

At about the same time, al Bawaba reported that Israeli Turkish relations were being mended and that 7 of 13 joint military projects were being complete. The newly delivered Israeli drones would be used to monitor Kurdish separatist hideouts in northern Iraq.

In February, 2010 reported comments by Ahmed Deniz of the PKK that Turkey had demanded a drone from the US in return for increasing its role in Afghanistan. Kurdnet reported that Deniz said that this drone would be used against the PKK.

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Israel Arms Turkey with Drones

Israel arms companies IAI and Elbit systems have sold Turkey 10 Heron drones at a cost of $183 million. While the Heron drones will be primarily used for surveillance of the opposition PKK forces in northern Iraq, Turkey is also interested in acquiring an Israeli Harpy 2 drone which can be armed. At least one source suggests that Turkey has placed an order for the Harpy 2. And older source claims that Turkey plans to acquire 48 Harpy 2 drones, which are very small anti radar, ‘loitering’ drones capable of carrying a missile. (The same source describes the $880 million deal that has Israel upgrading many of Turkey’s planes and tanks). The Harpy 2 was designed to destroy surface to air missiles as well as radar systems, making airspace safe for attackers planes. It carries a 23 kg warhead, and because of its relatively low cost, it is expendible. It was developed to allow Israel to attack Iran.

Currently the Heron drones, and a Predator drone supplied by the US, are used to gain intelligence on PKK bases in Northern Iraq, which are then targetted by mortars and aircraft.

The Turkish campaign against the PKK in Iraq, which is of dubious legality, causes untold hardship to civilians living in the area of the conflict.

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Samsung Builds Weapons of Death

Korean consumer electronics giant Sumsung is also a weapons manufacturer. Samsung builds an automated sentry robot, which is able to fire a machine gun autonomously at intruders. It is used to guard areas and can detect a target and fire a weapon without reference to a human controller. See also Anyone approaching an area guarded by one of these needs a password, otherwise they will be shot at by a robotically controlled machine gun.

As someone who has occasionally purchased Samsung products, and been satisfied with them, this gives me pause. It hadn’t occurred to me that the Korean company would be a weapons manufacturer. I have additional concerns about the weapon it produces, which is one that further removes responsibility for a violent action from the operator. The search for a new computer printer to replace the aging Samsung laser printer we now have prompted me look at Samsung’s record on military sales.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Policy Paper #12, the South Korean arms industry is not very transparent, and few figures are available regarding the size and nature of the arms manufacturing industry there. In 1999 Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) was formed from Samsung Aerospace, Daewoo Heavy Industries and Machinery, and Hyundai Heavy Industries. It has been recognised as the Korean national defense company and provides a number of services and products (especially military aircraft) to the Korean Defence Department. (Source) It isn’t clear if it is partly owned by Samsung, but one presumes so.

According to Joongang Daily, South Korea was one of the top 12 countries that sold arms to Iraq before the Iraq War, violating UN sanctions.

Samsung Techwin, a subsidiary of Samsung, makes an armoured military vehicle. Also, a self propelled howitzer, amphibious assault vehicles, and other products. (Source)

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Israeli Company Deliver’s First Heron UAV to Canadian Forces

15 October, 2008, Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) delivered the first of its Heron drones to Canadian Forces, as part of a $95 million contract. Management, training, and in-theatre maintenance will be the responsibility of MacDonald Dettwiler.

This follows previous collaboration between IAI and MDA, who tested Heron drones earlier at the Suffield UAV centre CCUVS.

In information released on 2008, MDA claimed that the Heron flight carried out that day was the first Unmanned Aerial Vehicle flight in Alberta. (This seems improbable, and may depend on definitions, because there have been cruise missile flights, which are arguably UAV’s, and lots of remotely controlled flights of smaller aircraft).

IAI toured Canadian Forces Defence Attache through their facilities. Col. Georgie Elms is Hebrew speaking and has served in peacekeeping in Palestine/Israel, and in Kabul, Afghanistan. Elms is looking for consulting contracts, presumably after his CF contract is up.

Herons were also delivered to the Israeli Air Force in March, 2008. They are capable of flying at 30,000 feet, are relatively quiet, and can stay in the air for 40 hours. Herons have also been sold to Turkey, as part of a joint venture with Israeli company Elbit systems (vendors of the Hermes drone). These were being delivered in 2007. The Herons will carry a varying payload of surveillance equipment, which may include laser designators, used for marking targets for other weapons systems. Turkish Forum reports that the Herons were being used by the Turkish military in their conflict with Kurdish insurgents. (ed: PKK?) Turkish Daily News reported that the sale of Israeli drones to Turkey caused problems for the US, since US contractors were excluded from the bidding for technical reasons. An unstated implication was that the bidding process was intentionally unfair, and related to aspects of the close relationship between Turkey and Israel.

Israel has sold UAV’s to South Korea.

Israel has sold Searcher UAV’s to India. Other customers include Chile, Singapore, and the US. An Israeli Military Innovation: UAV, Joint Force Quarterly, 2002, by Ralph Sanders, is a good overview of the development of the Israeli UAV industry.

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