Defense News is reporting that at least one M1 Abrams tank supplied to the Iraqi armed forces has shown up in the hands of Shia militiamen with a Russian built heavy machine gun mounted on the vehicle. The vehicle, one of 146 tanks the US sold to Baghdad, was brought to a US-supported Iraqi service facility at al-Muthanna. This particular vehicle could constitute a twin violation of Iraq’s FMS (foreign military sales) agreements with Washington, due to unauthorized use by Shiite militias and the unsanctioned addition of the Russian gun and Iranian ammo.
The tank was equipped with a Russian .50-caliber machine gun and Iranian-stamped 12.75-mm ammunition, according to a source at the facility.
“They brought it in through Iraqi checkpoints, back-rolled it off the trailer and then drove away,” recounted the source.
“Once all the ammo was removed, as per procedure, by Iraqi personnel, we noticed Iranian markings on the back of the shell casings. Seems they put a Russian machine gun with Iranian ammunition on an Abrams tank.”
As Washington scrambles to adapt to the myriad, Iranian-backed Shiite militias fighting alongside its US-trained and -supplied partners in Iraq, new manifestations of shifting alliances may threaten the relevance of US end-use monitoring in that war-torn country.
After US-led coalition airstrikes were forced to destroy about 10 M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks (MBTs) seized from the Iraqi Army by the Islamic State group, often called ISIL or ISIS, Washington is now grappling with the phenomenon of their voluntary transfer to Shiite forces battling in concert with Baghdad against the fanatical Sunni Caliphate.