Arming the Kurds builds on long history of proxy warfare in the Middle East

The Conversation, 16 September 2014.

An “initial gifting package”: the opaque label is wrapped around £1.6m worth of heavy machine guns and half a million rounds of ammunition, which has now reached the Iraqi town of Arbil courtesy of the British government. The delivery adds a small British component to a flow of weaponry, air strikes and “advisors” that has washed into the Kurdish region of northern Iraq over the last month.

These deliveries are the most concrete aspect of the international response to the gains by Islamic State (IS) militants over the summer, and that response has now culminated in Barack Obama’s effective, if unauthorised, declaration of war.

That the Kurds are outgunned because the IS is firing captured American artillery at them has not stopped the decision to supply new weaponry. Neither have the shipments been slowed by the Kurdish Regional Government’s (KRG) willingness to agree a very short-lived and opportunist “informal non-aggression pact” with the IS in mid-June, as the two sides took over Kirkuk and Mosul respectively. It allowed the Kurds to “expand their territory by some 40%”.

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