Iraq buying US drones to protect oil
Iraq is buying unmanned drones from the United States to help protect its southern oil platforms as the OPEC nation ramps up production after the withdrawal of the last American troops, US and Iraqi officials said on Monday.
Protecting the vital infrastructure around its oil reserves, the world's fourth largest, is crucial as Iraq rebuilds an industry battered by years of war and sanctions against former dictator Saddam Hussein.
"Iraq's navy has purchased US drones to protect the country's oil platforms in the south, from where most of Iraq's oil is shipped," said an official from the Office of Security Cooperation in Iraq, which is part of the US embassy.
The OSCI did not give further details of the number or type of unmanned aircraft. But Iraqi security officials confirmed plans to use drones to protect oil infrastructure.
Iraqi forces took over responsibility for protecting the oil infrastructure in 2005, but until the withdrawal of the last American troops in December, the US military had provided aerial surveillance and other logistical support.
Violence in Iraq has ebbed since the height of the war in 2006 and 2007 when thousands were killed in daily suicide bombings and sectarian slaughter, but insurgents still often target oil infrastructure.
"According to the energy police plans, we intend to use the drones by the end of this year," head of the energy protection force, Major General Hamid Ibrahim told Reuters. "We are in the process of training engineers."