ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Canadian military aid and weapons meant for the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga have yet to reach the Kurdish soldiers’ hands, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Peshmerga said on Saturday.
Halgurd Hikmat, the spokesperson for the Peshmerga Ministry, told Kurdistan 24 weapons and other lethal aid promised by the Canadian government and intended for the Kurdistan Region’s armed forces to help defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq still haven’t been delivered.
“We have previously asked that military aid to Peshmerga be directly given to the Kurdistan Region, not delivered through Baghdad,” Hikmat said.
“We have a reason to say that – there are unofficial reports that Canadian weapons destined for the Peshmerga forces have ended up in the hands of other Iraqi forces,” he added.
“It is not a surprise or odd to us,” Hikmat stated, noting this has happened in Iraq on multiple occasions.
“Canada, the US-led coalition, and Iraqi Federal Government are accountable for the whereabouts and use of those weapons. They should have an explanation for this delay,” the spokesperson continued.
While the Canadian government said the Special Forces would not be overseeing the “urgent” purchase of weapons and equipment for the Peshmerga promised in 2016, the military cautioned it had no idea when the gear might be delivered.
A spokesperson for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) reached out to Kurdistan 24 in response to the comments made by Hikmat.
“Canada has sent some equipment to the Government of Iraq, to include the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in 2014 and 2015 when the conflict started,” said Col. Jay H. Janzen in an emailed statement.
“However, the donation announced by the Prime Minister of Canada on Feb. 8, 2016, where Canada offered to provide equipment such as small arms, optics, and body armor to the Iraqi security forces within the KRG has not been shipped or delivered,” he continued.
“These donations will be delivered pending final administrative arrangements, such as end-user agreements, as they are still being developed and will need to be reviewed by the Government of Iraq and by the KRG,” Col. Janzen explained.
“The Government of Iraq provided consent and authorization for the provision of the equipment in a diplomatic note issued in June 2016,” he added.
While Janzen noted the Canadian government was “taking all reasonable steps to ensure that the Government of Iraq and the KRG provide assurances that this equipment will be used in an appropriate manner,” he provided no further details.
Kurdish officials, including the Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council Masrour Barzani, have criticized coalition partners for not delivering on their promises of military aid.
Weapons have often been sent to Baghdad despite the knowledge the arms would likely be detained by the Iraqi government.
While speaking to Kurdistan 24, the head of the Peshmerga Parliamentary Committee in the Kurdistan Region Ari Harseen asked countries delivering the weapons to follow up with Baghdad.
“Those who have sent weapons, meant to arm the Peshmerga, through the Federal Government of Iraq should investigate and question Baghdad on the whereabouts of the weapons,” he said.
He mentioned that as long as Kurdistan remained a part of Iraq, Baghdad would keep treating Erbil as it always has – not as an equal partner but as second-class.
Harseen added that independence for the Region was the only guarantee for Peshmerga forces to receive support directly from members of the anti-IS coalition.
Kurdish officials have repeatedly insisted they wish to divorce from Baghdad peacefully and maintain good relations.
Since the fight against IS began, Baghdad has not sent any military aid to the Peshmerga fighters, despite the Kurdish force having been the first line of defense against the militant group in 2014 and playing a key role in defeating the group in Mosul and other areas in northern Iraq.
The Canadian government promised a new batch of weapons for the Peshmerga in 2016, ahead of the offensive to retake Mosul, but failed to deliver them after the Iraqi government refused to approve the shipment.
Baghdad has regularly stopped shipments of foreign military aid it believed was intended for the Kurds.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany