American firm suspends Abrams tank maintenance in Iraq, threatens final withdrawal
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The United States has stopped a maintenance program for the Iraqi-owned Abrams tanks after one of the military vehicles was provided to the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, Iraqi media reported on Sunday.
Iraq-based al-Ghad Press revealed that American company General Dynamics, who produces the Abrams tanks, had suspended its maintenance program in Iraq over the Hashd al-Shaabi’s—also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF)—possession of one of the US-made tanks.
“The US tank company [General Dynamics] withdrew from its base in Baghdad’s al-Muthanna airport after finding out that Iraq violated the terms of the contract which only authorized the Iraqi army to use the US provided tanks,” the report stated.
According to the report, the US company had previously informed the Iraqi government about the provision of Abrams tanks to armed groups that do not belong to the Iraqi army.
After the company’s compliance, the Iraqi government retrieved one of the tanks from the Hashd al-Shaabi during an anti-Islamic State (IS) operation in Anbar Province, the report added.
General Dynamics’ staff in Iraq left the country for the Christmas holidays and had not returned yet as the Iraqi government promised it would return the tank to the company’s maintenance site by the beginning of February, al-Ghad Press explained.
Al-Ghad Press also noted the company had threatened “a final withdrawal” from Iraq if it was proven that Iran, which backs the Hashd al-Shaabi, had reproduced the tank.
Kurdistan Region officials previously complained that US M1 Abrams Tanks and Humvees, along with other US-provided military equipment given to the Iraqi forces to defeat IS, were used by the PMF in their aggression against Kurds last October.
Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces destroyed two Abrams tanks after the Iranian-backed Shia militias had used them during the Oct. 16 attacks on Kurdish areas.
Iraq owns 140 M1 Abrams Tanks. Sixty of them are now out of service following the Mosul battle, with the company planning to restore them back to service before it decided to stop entirely in December.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany