In January 2018, the Baghdad Post broke the story that not only did pro-Iran Hashd factions have Abrams tanks sold to the Iraqi army, but that General Dynamics had withdrawn some of its personnel until the tanks were returned. On February 2, the Pentagon’s Inspector General confirmed that 9 Abrams tanks ended up in the hands of Hashd units, but that the maintenance program remained in place. Foreign Policy chimed in on March 2 reporting that most of the General Dynamics technicians had pulled out of Iraq, and that left many of the Iraqi Army’s tanks out of service. The company and Washington were waiting for the last two Abrams to be handed back to the Iraqi forces.
That doesn’t seem like it will happen any time soon as a Hashd spokesman attacked the Americans for making those demands replying that the Hashd were part of the Iraqi forces, and therefore the U.S. was interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs. An Iraqi parliamentarian on the security committee lamented that this matter could leave most of Iraq’s tanks disabled.
The Hashd got ahold of these tanks in 2015 if not earlier. Seven were captured from the Islamic State who seized them during their takeover of northern Iraq in 2014. Two other tanks were handed over to the Hashd by the Iraqi army. Some were even deployed to Syria. The Hashd last deployed the tanks in October 2017 when they confronted and clashed with the Peshmerga in Kirkuk.
The Hashd has been using American equipment from the start of the war against the Islamic State. That includes Humvees to mine resistant vehicles to armored personnel carriers to these Abrams. Many of these were given to the Hash by the Iraqi army who also provided support as the Hashd do not have the parts nor technicians to maintain many of these vehicles especially such technologically advanced ones like the Abrams. Since the U.S. is complaining about them, the pro-Iran Hashd are probably more intent on holding on to the vehicles just to annoy Washington. When the media attention fades they may change their minds.
Axe, David, “In Iraq, Hezbollah’s Got U.S. tanks, and Washington Wants Them Back,” Daily Beast, 2/20/18
- “U.S.-Made Tanks That Fell Into Militia Hands in Iraq Sparks Assistance Standoff,” Foreign Policy, 3/2/18
Baghdad Post, “US Abrams threatens to depart Iraq after IMIS violations,” 1/28/18
Department of Defense Inspector General, “Overseas Contingency Operations, Operation Inherent Resolve Operation Pacific Eagle-Philippines, October 1, 2017-December 31, 2017,” 2/2/18
Hath Al-Youm, “Popular crowd responds to America’s demand to hand over Abrams tanks,” 2/23/18
Shafaaq News, “Security Committee: popular crowd hurting status of Abrams tanks in Iraq They will be useless,” 3/6/18