Accounts of corruption in the Iraqi army

Accounts by Iraqi officers and former US officials indicate that the Iraqi army is riven with corruption and poor leadership—factors that might explain why troops disintegrated when they faced the surprise offensive by the group Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) which swept into the northern city of Mosul in 2014.

In describing the extent of corruption in the army, an Iraqi officer who served in the Sunni-dominated Anbar province in 2014 told Reuters that funds meant for soldiers' rations, for maintaining vehicles and for fuel were drained by corruption. He said: “Senior military posts are frequently for sale, and soldiers go to local markets to buy spare parts because government stores are empty”.

A former U.S. official in Iraq told Reuters “poor treatment of rank-and-file soldiers by their superiors contributed to mass desertions”.

"These guys, these units are demoralized. They are underpaid and ripped off constantly by their commanding officers, who steal their allowances and use their commands as a way to build a personal nest egg,” the former official said.

A former US military advisor summed up conditions in the Iraqi army in an assessment which the International Crisis Group quoted in 2010: “Cronyism, bribery, kickbacks, extortion… [are] commonplace and… getting worse. Commanders are not chosen for their ability, but rather based on whether or not they have paid the Division Commander the fee he demands.”