November 26, 2005:
The Iraqi 9th Mechanized division received an equipment upgrade over the Summer, as 77 T-72 tanks, contributed by Hungary, entered service. This month, the new vehicles, and their crews, were declared ready for service. These tanks equip two battalions of the 2nd Brigade. A battalion of infantry in the brigade uses Russian BMP armored vehicles. Another brigade uses older T-55 tanks and Russian made MTLB infantry vehicles. These vehicles are from the 1960s, and have been refurbished. Even the T-72s are basically 1980s technology. But the Iraqis aren't planning on fighting another army with these vehicles, but doing police work with them. The 9th division will be used to protect voters next month. The tanks and armored personnel carriers are effective protection against suicide bombers, and their machine-guns on the vehicles can deal with hostile gunmen, or suicide bombers on foot or in vehicles.
There's plenty of surplus Russian armor in Eastern Europe, which the current owners are planning on selling or scrapping. Since there are few customers for this obsolete equipment, you can earn a few brownie points with the U.S. by donating it to Iraq. The United States has been pushing this approach, even offering to pay the transport costs in some cases. The Iraqis, however, already have their eye on the future, and want more modern equipment. The United States has already said that it would leave a lot of military equipment behind when American units are withdrawn permanently, and the Iraqis are hoping some of this gear will include used M-1 tanks and M-2 infantry vehicles. Failing that, Russia is ready to sell Iraqi its new T-90 tanks. Just like the old days.