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03 Mar 14. The opening day of the 3rd Bagdad International Defence, Security and Aviation Fair was the most heavily defended exhibition that most will ever experience in their lives. Upon arrival one wondered what must be done to gain access to the event. It is understandable that the high level of security was implemented, as the VIP guest list made this a potential high profile, high value target under current security circumstances in Iraq. The Minister of Defence opened the event and toured the exhibition, accompanied by the chief of the Armed Forces and chiefs of the Arms of Service, police and other security agencies. Iraq is facing a renewed and growing security threat emanating from the Anbar province and centred in areas such as Fallujah, Haditha and other localities. The Islamic State of Iraq in the Levant (ISIL), who is also part of the war in Syria, and a range of anti-government groups fight for various reasons in this province, against or with the government forces. In Baghdad the conflict manifests in vicious bomb attacks on public areas and government installations. The government of Iraq thus has to contain this escalating insurgency and has growing security needs. Other countries in the region face their own issues and often collective threats. This is why companies from Iraq, China, South Korea, the US, the UK, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Ukraine, France, Italy, Germany, Lebanon and other areas are here: to tap into the major Iraqi defence market and to catch the eye of attendees from neighbouring countries. Exhibitors from Turkey (seven) and Belarus cancelled at the last moment. And there are none from South Africa or Africa. There are no companies from this part of the world showcasing African innovation in bomb-resistant, bomb detection and neutralisation technology to compete with the offerings on show from China and Iraq; none to impress visitors with combat proven protected vehicles and tactical vehicles that can be utilised by Special Forces and specialist units; no-one to offer ranges of protective equipment and apparel that is of the best in the world; no UAV products to provide prospective Iraqi and other regional clients an eye-in-the-sky capability; no specialist weapons that can make a difference in a critical situation; there is an absence of high tech observation and intelligence gathering solutions from the continent; of air-delivered weapons; or even of support systems or upgrade and enhancement offerings for the defence environment. These are but a few of the areas that can be exploited in this major potential market. There are many more. Although the US invested a lot money, equipment and lives in Iraq, the country is clearly open for business with suppliers of quality and effective products and support from any source. But then such businesses would need to be seen in Baghdad at an event such as this. The South African defence industry has over the years made some high profile sales in the Middle East to other clients. Perhaps it is time to invest in raising the profile in exhibitions such as this in Baghdad, a defence exhibition that set to take on a growing importance in the region and where the door is open to be the dominant presence, forcing decision makers here to sit up and take notice. (Source: African Armed Forces)

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