Iraqis celebrating national army anniversary

Monday is the 82nd anniversary of the Iraqi armed forces. To mark the occasion, President Saddam Hussein has delivered an address to the nation.

Since their foundation in 1921, the Iraqi armed forces have played an important role in all major domestic events, including the liberation from British colonial rule, the anti-monarchial revolution, and the seizure of power by the Baas party.

The Iraqi army lived through particularly hard times in the 1980s and '90s. It waged an eight-year-long war with the neighboring Iran (1980-1988). And its subsequent occupation of Kuwait got it involved in the Desert Storm operation, referred to by the Iraqis as the "mother of all battles." In the past, the Iraqi armed forces used predominantly Soviet-made weaponry and hardware. However, the economic embargo of 1990 prohibited any arms exports to Iraq, forcing the country to rely upon its own military capabilities.

Iraq lacks modern aircraft, air defense systems, missiles, and armored vehicles. Faced with the U.S. threats to unleash a second Gulf war, the Iraqi leaders realize that the American army is way superior to theirs in technical terms. They hope, however, that the nation's confidence in the righteousness of its cause and its perseverance will let it get the upper hand over the mighty aggressor.

Presumably, Iraq's armed forces are 2 million strong now. All Iraqi men above 18 are liable for military service. Conscript soldiers shall serve for three years whereas officers, a year-and-a-half. Starting in 1991, would-be draftees are afforded the opportunity to receive military service exemption by paying 1,000 dollars into the Iraqi treasury coffers.

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