The United States government has suspended weapon deliveries to Iraq following growing concerns about the ultimate fate of such exports. This comes after continued tensions since the assassination of Iranian command Qassem Soleimani in the country in early January.
Particularly vulnerable is Iraq’s fleet of F-16s. The current pause impacts the country’s ability to find spare parts and to maintain their aircraft.
A few weeks ago, some U.S. contractors had been withdrawn from Iraq as a result of the deteriorating security situation, with the evacuation completed by January 8th. According to Defense Department spokesperson Maj. Rob Lodewick, “due to concerns about the safety and security of their personnel supporting Iraqi F-16 operations at Balad Air Base, Iraq, Lockheed-Martin initiated an evacuation of their personnel on 4 January 2020.”
There is some concern that the continued presence of Iranian-linked militias in the country could result in a technology transfer to Tehran. Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, a Shi’a paramilitary group that is now part of the state-aligned Popular Mobilization Units, is known to operate in the areas around Balad. With no U.S. personnel there, there is no way for the Pentagon to verify what level of information-gathering has taken place.