An $833 million Iraqi arms deal secretly negotiated with Serbia has underscored Iraq's continuing problems equipping its armed forces, a process that has long been plagued by corruption and inefficiency.
The deal was struck in September without competitive bidding and it sidestepped anticorruption safeguards, including the approval of senior uniformed Iraqi Army officers and an Iraqi contract approval committee. Instead, it was negotiated by a delegation of 22 high-ranking Iraqi officials, without the knowledge of American commanders or many senior Iraqi leaders.
The deal drew enough criticism that Iraqi officials later limited the purchase to $236 million. And much of that equipment, American commanders said, turned out to be either shoddy or inappropriate for the military's mission.
An anatomy of the purchase highlights how the Iraqi Army's administrative abilities -- already hampered by sectarian rifts and corruption -- are woefully underdeveloped, hindering it in procuring weapons and other essentials in a systematic way. It also shows how an American procurement process set up to help foreign countries navigate the complexity of buying weapons was too slow and unwieldy for wartime needs like Iraq's, prompting the Iraqis to strike out on their own.