The German government, long a force for pacifist foreign policy, has decided that it will start sending weapons to arm the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq, in its fight against the Islamic State. Reuters reports that Chancellor Angela Merkel is making it clear how big a deal this is:
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her government’s taboo-breaking decision to send arms to Kurds fighting Islamic State militants in Iraq, calling the group a major security threat to both Germany and Europe.
“The far-reaching destabilization of an entire region affects Germany and Europe,” Merkel said in a speech to parliament Monday, a day after Berlin published a list of weapons, including machine guns and hand grenades, that it will send to the region. . . .
Germany will send enough weapons to arm 4,000 Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq battling against IS, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, whose advances threaten to destabilize the Middle East, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Sunday.
The equipment will include armor-piercing weapons like anti-tank rockets, thousands of assault rifles, hand grenades, mine-clearing equipment, night-vision goggles, field kitchens and tents.
Breaking with a postwar policy of not sending arms to conflict zones, Chancellor Merkel said northern Iraq is an “exception” because of the nature of IS’s violence.
More than 400 German nationals are estimated to have joined the Islamic State. The U.S. government is sending arms to the Kurdish government, too, though it’s unclear, as with Germany’s effort, how much of the arms are being sent directly to the Kurds and how much is being routed through the central Iraqi government, which has struggled to assert control over the situation in northern Iraq.
UPDATE: Kurdistan journalist Patrick Osgood clarifies that this aid will be going through the Iraqi central government, which will likely diminish its usefulness (although, of course, there are good reasons for the strategy, too):
So vaunted German military aid is allocated to the Kurds but is initially deposited with Baghdad. Intl pressure to pass on but problematic.— Patrick Osgood (@PatrickOsgood) September 2, 2014