The Iraqi Military Academy al Rustamiyah (IMAR), graduated its first class of 73 cadets, who have now been commissioned as lieutenants. The 52 week course is based on the one employed at the British military academy at Sandhurst. The American military academies employ a four year, university level curriculum, while the older, Sandhurst model, sticks just to military subjects, and trains students who may have already graduated from college. Under Saddam, the military academies provided a three year course of instruction, a custom borrowed from Russia. Cadets who had finished two years of that course were put through a 90 day course at IMAR, to teach them Western military techniques, and then 43 of them were commissioned as lieutenants.
The Sandhurst method is preferred because that way, officers will have more exposure to a non-military background first, by getting their university education in a civilian school. The Russian method, adopted by the Iraqis, is to combine college with military training. The United States uses the same approach, but still gets most of its officers from ROTC programs (military courses given at civilian universities) or OCS, which is a six month course for cadets who were enlisted troops. The Sandhurst model can take either university grads, or young sergeants, and quickly turn them into competent officers. The first full class at IMAR will start this year with 270 cadets.
Two similar academies had earlier been established in the north, for the Kurds. These two schools are being merged into a national system of military schools. The al Rustamiyah facility was first built by the British in the 1920s, but has fallen into disrepair over the last decade.