By: David Pugliese, Defence Watch
During a Wednesday news conference with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, I asked the minister a direct question about the Iraq mission: “Do you still intend to provide arms to the Kurds?”
The minister, talking to journalists via phone from London, England, seemed taken back and stumbled for an answer. Sajjan then reverted to his standard talking points about wanting to work closely with the Iraqis. But he really didn’t answer the question.
Then on Thursday, the reason became apparent. Justin Ling broke a story on Buzzfeed noting that the weapons purchased by Canadian tax dollars are in storage in Montreal. The Iraqi government is refusing to give approval for the weapons to be delivered to the Kurds, he reported.
Iraqi troops attacked Kurdish forces after the Kurdish Regional Government announced plans to declare an independent state in the northern part of the country, including the oil-rich area around Kirkuk.
Iraqi forces seized Kirkuk and the Kurds retreated. The region faces further upheaval, as protests started on Monday after demonstrators took to the streets calling for the resignation of the Kurdish Regional Government. A number of government buildings were set on fire, and at least five protesters have been killed by security forces and dozens wounded. Some hospital officials put the number of wounded at more than 100.
The demonstrators are protesting against government corruption, the failure of the KRG to provide basic services and a lack of pay for civil servants — and there remains anger over the failed independence bid.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in February 2016 that Canada would provide weapons to the Kurds in support of their efforts against ISIL.
Canada had planned to provide the Kurds with gear including .50-calibre sniper rifles equipped with silencers, 60mm mortars, as well as Carl Gustav anti-tank systems, as well as grenade launchers, pistols, carbines, thermal binoculars, cameras, scopes and medical supplies.
But that doesn’t appear like it is going to happen.
No specific delivery plans have been made by Canada, a Department of National Defence spokesman told Defence Watch.
“As is the case for any CAF operation, our contributions are constantly under assessment in order to ensure all appropriate strategic and tactical steps are taken,” he noted. “Canada also has a responsibility to ensure any provisions of equipment and small arms such aid is provided under the right conditions.”
The lethal equipment that has been acquired to date is currently stored in Canada at the 25 Canadian Forces Supply Depot in Montréal, QC. The supply depot is run by the Canadian Materiel Support Group, which is responsible for providing operational-level support through the delivery of materiel and assigned logistics services to the CAF and the DND.