The Cable

Meet the ‘Beast,’ the Little Iraqi Tank That Could

The Pentagon is touting the exploits of a single Iraqi Abrams M1 tank helping to reclaim an Islamic State-held city.

A member of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service flashes the "V" for victory sign from inside a US-made Abrams tank on December 29, 2015 on the outskirts of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. Iraq declared the city of Ramadi liberated from the Islamic State group Monday and raised the national flag over its government complex after clinching a landmark victory against the jihadists. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE        (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
A member of Iraq's elite counter-terrorism service flashes the "V" for victory sign from inside a US-made Abrams tank on December 29, 2015 on the outskirts of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq's Anbar province, about 110 kilometers west of Baghdad, after Iraqi forces recaptured it from the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. Iraq declared the city of Ramadi liberated from the Islamic State group Monday and raised the national flag over its government complex after clinching a landmark victory against the jihadists. AFP PHOTO / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)

The Pentagon continues to search so hard for clear victories against the Islamic State that it can show off to a war-weary American public that it has begun heavily promoting the exploits of a single Iraqi tank nicknamed the “Beast.”

Baghdad-based military spokesman Col. Steve Warren went out of his way during a routine Wednesday briefing to praise the crew of the Iraqi Abrams M1 tank and assert that it “has been driving all around Hit, crazy, blasting IEDs [improvised explosive devices].”

Warren even tweeted out a video of the tank in action, taking out an Islamic State car in Hit that was packed with explosives.

The reference was to the Islamic State-held town of Hit in Anbar province, just north of Ramadi, where the Beast has made its name as part of a largely successful Iraqi military push to reclaim the city.

While Warren said he wasn’t claiming the tank crew is driving around “like Brad Pitt,” the tank has apparently become a little bit of a folk hero in Iraq, with the Iraqi Twittersphere coming up with its nickname. The Beast has been so active that Warren said U.S. advisors watching the battle thought that there was more than one tank out there “tearin’ it up.” Initially, three Iraqi Army Abrams tanks were sent to the fight in Hit, but two broke down, leaving just one to clash with Islamic State holdouts.

We also learned Wednesday that the Americans give out a “Hero of the Day” award to Iraqi troops fighting in Hit and that the Beast’s crew took home the award for several days running.

Overall, Washington has supplied at least 140 General Dynamics-made Abrams M1 tanks to Iraq over the past several years, though American warplanes have reportedly had to destroy at least 10 of them after they were seized by the Islamic State. There have also been plenty of pictures floating around of Shiite militias driving the tanks as they fight alongside Iraqi government forces, some retrofitted with Russian machine guns.

Photo credit: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images

Paul McLeary is Foreign Policy’s senior reporter covering the U.S. Defense Department and national security issues. @paulmcleary

Trending Now Sponsored Links by Taboola

By Taboola

More from Foreign Policy

By Taboola