x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Iraq hosts first weapons expo since fall of Saddam Hussein

A pavilion at the Baghdad fairgrounds was hosting 40 companies from 13 countries for three days from Sunday, but almost all Western countries are absent from the fair.

Officials look at a FA-50 fighter jet model on display at Baghdad's International Fair for the Defence and Security.
Officials look at a FA-50 fighter jet model on display at Baghdad's International Fair for the Defence and Security.

BAGHDAD // Iraq has launched its first arms fair since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein which saw the US completely dismantle the country's military.

Iraq is still rebuilding its security forces, which today they number some 900,000 people, including 650,000 employed by the interior ministry.

Baghdad allocated US$14.6 billion (Dh53.6bn), or about 15 per cent of the budget, to security in 2012, second only to energy which takes up 20 per cent as the country seeks to develop its oil sector and fix a chronic electricity shortage.

"This is the first exhibition since the fall of Saddam Hussein, as we need specialised companies to come to Baghdad to show their products to our ministries, so we choose the best," Adnan Al Assadi, the deputy interior minister, said.

A pavilion at the Baghdad fairgrounds was hosting 40 companies from 13 countries for three days from Sunday.

Almost all Western countries are absent from the expo.

South Korea and China are showcasing a full range of military equipment, from weapons of all calibres and military vehicles to communications, uniforms and riot gear.

"We came to win contracts, but also to develop our relations with this country, where we had the third-largest contingent in the multinational forces after the United States and Great Britain," said Lee Jong-duk, the director of international relations for the Korea Defence Industry Association.

Sang Choi, the vice president of Korea Aerospace Industries, was hoping to sell Iraq 24 T-50 Golden Eagle aircraft which can be used in both training and combat.

"We made a proposal last year and we hope that the contract will be signed very soon. I am very optimistic," he said.

Iraq's air force virtually disappeared following the Gulf War in 1991, when it was destroyed or rendered inoperable by the international military coalition that pushed Saddam's forces out of Kuwait which he invaded the year before.

In a highly competitive market, the Iraqi Raban Al Safina group began selling products from foreign companies three years ago, especially jamming equipment, robots to disarm bombs, and detection equipment.

"It is very important that we are here, because, dealing with terrorists, our country needs this type of equipment," said Ali Jawhar, an engineer in Raban Al Safina's electronics department.

Although Baghdad bought a large number of ADE 651 portable explosives detectors from a British company that turned out not to work, spending between $16,500 and $60,000 a unit, Raban Al Safina showed the HEDD1 detector sold by German firm Unival, which the BBC has reported is also ineffective.