US-led coalition renting 'inadequate' land for IS offensive

US-led coalition renting 'inadequate' land for IS offensive
The US-led international coalition is allegedly footing the bill for an inadequate piece of land to be used by the Iraqi army as a launching pad against IS in Mosul.
2 min read
10 March, 2016
US-coalition troops training Peshmerga forces in Iraq [Getty]
The fifteenth division of the Iraqi army is using a piece of land paid for by the US-led international coalition as a staging ground for an assault on Islamic State group-held Mosul, according to Iraqi officials and military commanders.

The news has drawn sharp criticism, both for the high cost and the characteristics of the barren and poorly defended land.

The land, owned by a local Kurdish businessman, is being used for training, camping and storage of equipment ahead of the assault on IS due to lack of suitable areas, said an officer in the fifteenth division.

The officer told The New Arab by phone that the land is 10 dunams in size and is located in Makhmour, 50 kilometres south west of Mosul.

It is controlled by Kurdish forces and was rented from a Kurdish dealer in return for a fee of $150,000 a year.

"He originally asked for $200,000 but after bartering he said you only need $150,000 every year because you are fighting IS," said the officer, adding that the cash has already been handed to the landowner.

He sarcastically added that the land owner must be "the only one" in the country who is hoping that that IS continues to occupy Mosul so he can continue to profit off the transaction.

Iraqi MP Hussein al-Qadu confirmed the news in a press conference, criticising the move and saying it is in full range of IS bombs and rockets.

Brigadier General Najat Ali, commander of the Peshmerga in Makhmour, said the US-led international coalition is covering the rent.

"It has been signed by the coalition and Iraqi forces for 10 months," he said.

He also said that the Peshmerga had offered the Iraqi army state-owned land to launch the assault but the offer had been refused.

"The land we recommended to them was better and more protected," he said.

Contracts in Iraq can often be awarded on the basis of nepotism and bribery, according to Transparency International.

Defense Minister Khaled al-Obaidi has said that Iraq would launch the Mosul operation in the first half of the year and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said 2016 would see the "final victory" against the militants.