The Iraqi Army is hustling to get ready to deal with Iran, by the time the last 50,000 U.S. troops leave at the end of the year. Increased oil production, and oil prices, has made it possible to recruit more troops, and equip more combat divisions. Particularly noteworthy is the creation of Chemical Defense Regiments, with the goal of one of these units being assigned to each combat division over the next few years. The only neighbor known to have chemical weapons is Iran. Iraqi diplomats spend a lot of time trying to improve relationships with Iran, but just in case things go south, the Iraqi military is preparing for the worst.
While Iraq has sought to obtain a lot of American weapons, particularly tanks, artillery and combat aircraft, it’s been easier, and faster, to get Russian type gear from Russia or East European nations. A lot of this stuff is newly made, but most of it is Cold War surplus. These vehicles and artillery are cheap, a lot of older Iraqis are familiar with them, and they are as good as anything the Iranians have.
The Iraqi ground forces currently have nearly 200 infantry and tank battalions, organized into over 70 brigades and 17 divisions. There are a lot of independent brigades, and divisions are still waiting to receive artillery and armored vehicles and support units. Meanwhile, troops spend a lot of time performing security tasks, to aid the effort to track down the few remaining Sunni Arab terrorists.
By the end of the year, the army will have about 230,000 troops. They will not be as well as equipped as during Saddam Hussein’s tenure (1960s-2003), but they are better trained. This is important, because Iraqi troops have long been the least effective in the Arab world, largely because of poor leadership. The war with Iran in the 1980s changed that, but Saddam purged most of the competent new leaders, soon after, as he feared they would lead a coup against his disastrous rule (he was probably right.)