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.”

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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?

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