In a military scrapyard in the southern Iraqi desert, abandoned army equipment sat for years waiting to be melted down to steel bars. Now, thanks to new conflict and a resourceful old mechanic, some of the rusty warhorses have won a reprieve.

Last June’s stunning offensive by Islamic State militants who control much of northern and western Iraq left the army in disarray and much of its U.S.-supplied equipment was taken over by the advancing radical Sunni Muslim fighters.

Baghdad’s Shi’ite-led government appealed for reinforcements from across the world to help it fight back. But for retired military mechanic Madhi al-Sukaini, the answer lay nearer to home.[…]