by Dish Staff
The EU could not agree yesterday on whether to arm Kurdish fighters in Iraq, but gave member states permission to do so on their own. This morning, France announced that it would send an immediate shipment of weapons:
The sudden announcement that arms would begin to flow within hours underlined France’s alarm at the urgency of the situation in Iraq, where the Islamic State fighters are threatening the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq. … French authorities have pushed other European Union members to do more to aid Christians and other minorities being targeted by the Islamic State group extremists. E.U. foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting Friday to coordinate their approach to the crisis and to endorse the European arms shipments already announced, according to an E.U. diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity pending the official announcement later Wednesday.
Rick Noack notes that Germany is also considering sending weapons to Iraq, which might also entail arming the peshmerga directly. That would mark a major change in policy for the world’s third largest arms exporter:
“If Germany decides to arm the Kurds, this would be a watershed moment. Germany has so far refrained from delivering such aid to militants,” said journalist Thomas Wiegold, a leading authority on Germany’s defense industry.
In the past, Germany had always refused to deliver arms to rebel groups such as those fighting in Libya or Syria, although it did earlier approve the delivery of arms to Iraq. Iraqi Kurdistan, however, is a semi-autonomous region within Iraq, which makes it difficult for foreign governments to directly negotiate arms deliveries. Direct support would also contradict E.U. guidelines that rule out deliveries to warring parties that belong neither to the European Union nor NATO.
Meanwhile, the Kurds have sent the Pentagon their wish list of advanced weaponry, which, according to Eli Lake, includes armored personnel carriers, night vision equipment, and surveillance drones:
The Pentagon has yet to respond to the Kurdish request. But the list is an indication of the rapid expansion of the multi-pronged American campaign in Iraq. On Tuesday, the U.S. military announced it would be sending 130 more U.S. military advisers to northern Iraq, bringing the total number of troops to over a thousand in country. American boots on the ground will only be a small piece of the larger effort against ISIS, however.
The U.S. is scheduling up to 100 attack, surveillance, and humanitarian airdrop missions a day over Iraq. Those flights are being carried out by drones and manned fighters, U.S. Navy and Air Force aircraft alike. But American forces are not the ones calling in those strikes, as has become commonplace in warzones throughout the world. Instead, Kurdish fighters are identifying targets for the American bombing runs, breaking with years of U.S. military practice meant to ensure that the right targets are hit—and civilians are not.