Monday, September 26, 2016

Still no Canadian weapons for the Kurds – will the small arms ever be sent?

By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch 

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in February that Canada would be providing the Kurds with lethal military equipment.

That still hasn’t happened and the Canadian government can’t say when such shipments might take place.

The issue of arming the Kurds, now being trained by Canadian special forces, is highly controversial. Kurdish leaders openly acknowledge their intent is to eventually create an independent state. They argue it is their right to break away from Iraq, pointing to Quebec’s attempts to leave Canada as an example. The arms are needed both to fight against ISIL and to defend an independent state, Kurdish leaders have said.

In addition, some Iraqi MPs have spoken out about U.S. efforts to directly arm Kurdish forces, saying that is a violation of the Iraqi constitution. Turkey has also expressed concerns about the U.S. supplying weapons to Syrian Kurdish militias.

In the summer Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the delay in providing small arms to the Kurds was due to bureaucratic roadblocks and not resistance from the Iraqi or Turkish governments. “We have to go through a process for us here in Canada but we have to respect the process in Iraq as well,” he said. “I’ve spoken to the Iraqi Defence Minister. He’s assured me once we have completed our process that he will expedite it.”

There are a number of Canadian regulations that have to be dealt with before the arms can be provided, Sajjan added.

Defence sources say Canada is trying to purchase the small arms on the open market.

Meanwhile, other nations are shipping heavy weapons to Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

The U.S. military already has outfitted such units with mortars, anti-tank weapons and armoured personnel carriers.

The UK Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon recently announced in the Commons addition equipment to be supplied. “We have supplied not only heavy machine guns to the Peshmerga but ammunition for those heavy machine guns,” he said. “I announced earlier in the summer a fresh gift from us of ammunition for those heavy machine guns, and that ammunition has now arrived and is being used.”

In August, Germany resumed weapons shipments to the Kurds. Such shipments were halted in January after it emerged that some of the weapons Germany previously supplied to the Peshmerga had turned up on the black market.

Germany’s latest shipment included 1,500 rifles, 1 million rounds of ammunition, three armored vehicles and 100 MILAN guided missiles.

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