T-72 Tanks Headed for Iraqi Army… or Impoundment
On May 20, DID reported a contract to refurbish and deliver 77 Hungarian T-72 tanks to the Iraqi Army, as the centerpiece of a new armored division. The good news is that those tanks are ready for delivery to the Iraqi 9th Army Division. The bad news is that the sustained failure of the Iraqi government to pay the contractor may result in those tanks being impounded in Kuwait or returned to Europe, as a result of reluctant legal action by Defense Solutions LLC.
According to Defense Solutions Chief Executive Officer, Colonel Timothy Ringgold, Ph.D, US Army (Ret), “In spite of numerous promises, the Iraqi Government has not abided by the terms of our agreement… I regret having to take this step. The US Army officials with whom I’ve been dealing have been my friends and colleagues for 30 years. They have done a terrific job training the new Iraqi Army and trying to get Defense Solutions paid. It is the Iraqi Government that has not honored its commitments.”
Defense Solutions is seeking final payment from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense totaling just over $1 million.
The firm has been under pressure from both the Iraqi Government and the US Army to deliver the tanks ahead of schedule, so they could be fielded and operational in time for Iraq’s December 2005 general election. When eventually delivered, the refurbished T-72s would represent the toughest and most modern combat vehicles in the Iraqi Army.
After completing the refurbishment on the accelerated schedule, Defense Solutions notified the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, NATO and the US Army in Iraq that the final shipment of vehicles would not be released to NATO until payment was received from Iraq. Nevertheless, NATO Forces shipped the tanks and other vehicles over Defense Solutions’ written objections.
With its legal action, Defense Solutions counters that move. There are few options if Kuwait rules for and enforces Defense Solutions’ legal action for impoundment. The Greek NATO Transport ship used to ship the tanks cannot deliver its cargo directly to Iraq because of the Greek Government’s opposition to the war. The choice of any other seaport in the Persian Gulf, even if permitted by the host country, would presents huge logistical challenges to the US Army in moving the cargo overland to Iraq.
Ringgold added that he is well aware that as a result of their lawsuit filed in Kuwait, the Government of Kuwait may not allow the Greek ship to unload, forcing the ship to return its much needed cargo to Europe. He has also made it clear that this is not the outcome he seeks – compliance with the terms of the contract is.
This outcome would probably be best for all parties. A country that finds itself under severe and ongoing military threat might want to avoid a reputation for stiffing its defense contractors.