News / Middle East

    Russia Sends Arms to Iraqi Kurds for IS Fight

    Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take part during a training session by coalition forces in a training camp in Irbil, north of Iraq, March 9, 2016.
    Kurdish Peshmerga fighters take part during a training session by coalition forces in a training camp in Irbil, north of Iraq, March 9, 2016.
    Rikar HusseinFatima Tlisova

    Russia sent arms this week to Iraq’s Kurdish region to be used by Peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State group, Russian and Kurdish sources said.

    The arms were delivered Monday and included five anti-aircraft autocannons and 20,000 shells, Artem Grigoryan, the attache to the Russian consul general in Irbil, told RIA Novotsi.

    The delivery came one day after Ilya Morgunov, Russia's ambassador to Iraq, met with Kurdish President Masoud Barzani to discuss closer relations between the two sides and provision of military assistance to the Peshmerga fighters.

    “The Russian ambassador reiterated his county’s support to the Kurdistan region and showed Russia’s willingness to provide military assistance to Peshmerga in the fight against terrorism,” a statement from the Kurdistan region’s presidency read.

    A pro-Western region and an effective U.S. ally in fighting IS, Iraqi Kurdistan has received military assistance from several countries, including the United States and Germany. The Kurdish attempts to receive heavy weapons have been fiercely opposed by Baghdad, which fears the Kurds may seek independence from Iraq.

    FILE - A member of the Peshmerga forces inspects a tunnel used by Islamic State militants in the town of Sinjar, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2015.
    FILE - A member of the Peshmerga forces inspects a tunnel used by Islamic State militants in the town of Sinjar, Iraq, Dec. 1, 2015.

    Shipments blocked

    Having control over Kurdistan’s airspace, Baghdad has blocked several direct arms shipments to the region, arguing that any military assistance should go through the central government. Kurds, in response, complain that shipping through Baghdad is very slow and inefficient.

    Kurdistan’s representative to Russia told VOA that Baghdad approved the Russian arms shipments to the Peshmerga.

    “The shipment was carried by a Russian plane which landed in Irbil with the awareness from Baghdad,” Aso Jangi Burhan, the Kurdistan region’s representative to Russia, told VOA.

    According to Kurdish officials, this was not the first time Kurds had received arms from Russia.

    “Just like anti-IS coalition members, the Russian Federation provides us with military assistance. It has provided us with military assistance about three times in the past,” Jabar Yawar, the chief of staff for the Kurdistan region’s Peshmerga ministry, told VOA.

    The conflict in Syria and Iraq and the emergence of IS in the region have allowed for a greater involvement of Russia in the region, analysts say.

    “Russia has developed close ties with the Kurds since its intervention in Syria in September 2015,” Brian Glyn Williams, a professor of Islamic history at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth, told VOA. “The Russian-supplied anti-aircraft guns will be deployed in an anti-armor/anti-personnel role by the outgunned Kurds.”

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    by: Anonymous
    March 18, 2016 5:21 AM
    I hope Putin sent them the good stuff, there's a lot of Russian weaponry out there which is absolute crap and more likely to kill or maim the user rather than the enemy.
    In Response

    by: Mark from: Victoria
    March 22, 2016 7:55 PM
    There's a lot of Russian weaponry that has been functioning perfectly well since the 1960's - the Buk with its SA-11, for example. The Dutch seem pretty convinced it brought down a modern airliner at 30,000 feet. Most of it is thoroughly tested before it is approved for general use, and you will find a lot more military people using AK-series than M-16's.

    I hope the Kurds are not serious about using AA guns in an anti-personnel role, because it is against international humanitarian law to use the .50 calibre machine gun and above in that capacity.
    In Response

    by: Gabriell from: Polar Island
    March 18, 2016 9:49 AM
    There were supplied with good western weapons ( check the picture).

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 17, 2016 7:46 PM
    Russia will arm any legitimate country or group that is fighting the terrorist groups, (be they al-Qaeda or the ISIL terrorists), because the Russians only want to defeat and destroy all of the terrorists and have no plans whatsoever to dictate what particular terrorist group the Kurds fight against?

    Remember that the Kurds are the natural enemies of the Sunni Muslim al-Qaeda and the ISIL terrorists, [and], the Shia Muslim governments of Iraq and Syria welcome their help in fighting the al-Qaeda and ISIL terrorists also? .. Plus the Russians got approval from the Iraqi and Syrian government before delivering the weapons and ammo to the Kurds in Iraq? .. In other words, what the Russians did was perfectly legal and not some covert operation? .. Approved by sovereign governments?

    by: joe from: overhere
    March 17, 2016 7:37 PM
    I support the Kurds, but Anti-aircraft guns? Since when did IS get war planes?
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    March 18, 2016 9:51 AM
    Russian anti-aircraft guns are very popular in Middle East. I don't think Kurds intend to use them against anyone else.
    In Response

    by: Mariusz Szczerski from: Poland
    March 17, 2016 10:03 PM
    It's for defense against the turks.
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 17, 2016 9:54 PM
    The Kurds mount the anti-aircraft guns on trucks, and use them for their heavy weapons like tanks?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora