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Thursday, September 29, 2011     INTELLIGENCE BRIEFING

Iraq Navy now boasts 60 vessels, 4,000 personnel

BAGHDAD — The Iraq Navy has expanded its fleet as well as operations.


Officials said the Iraq Navy has grown rapidly over the last two years amid U.S. military guidance. They said the Navy has acquired more than 60 surface vessels and trained a force of more than 4,000 personnel.

"The new Iraq Navy's duty is to defend Iraq's shores and territorial waters," Iraq Navy commander Vice Adm. Ali Hussein Ali said.

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On Sept. 14, the Navy disclosed some of its capabilities at a ceremony to mark 74 years of operations, Middle East Newsline reported. Officials said the Navy was conducting more than 50 patrols per week to protect Iraq's territorial waters and crude oil infrastructure.

The Iraq Navy, based in the southern port of Umm Qasr, has been developed by the U.S. military and NATO partners, including Britain and Italy. In July, the Iraq Navy conducted an exercise with neighboring Kuwait.

"In the short time that the Iraqi Navy has grown, it is now responsible for approximately 80 percent of the territorial waters around Iraq," a U.S. military statement said.

At the ceremony, the Iraq Navy demonstrated maneuvers in marine landings and fire suppression. Iraqi Marines also conducted a mock interception of a suspicious large vessel.

The Navy has been based on patrol boats, including platforms from Italy and the United States. Officials said by 2012 the Navy would be granted full responsibility for maritime security and critical infrastructure.

In 2011, the Navy deployed five U.S.-origin Swiftboat patrol vessels. The Navy also operates 53-meter fast patrol boats from Italy's Fincantieri.

"Only a few years ago, the Iraqi Navy did not have any ships," U.S. Rear Adm. Edward Winters, a senior official in the training program, said.

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