Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Wants Kurdish Promises before Sending Weapons, Ammunition to Iraq

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canada Wants Kurdish Promises before Sending Weapons, Ammunition to Iraq

Article excerpt

Canada stalls on lethal aid for Kurds

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OTTAWA - The Liberal government's plan to provide weapons to Kurdish forces in Iraq is being held up by concerns the military equipment won't be used for purposes other than fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

The revelation comes amid growing calls in some Kurdish circles for an independent state separate from the rest of Iraq, and allegations -- which the Kurds deny -- that they are committing war crimes.

The government said in February that Canada would provide small arms, ammunition and optical sights to the Kurds as part of its revamped mission to fight ISIL. It also expanded the number of special forces in Iraq to about 200 and withdrew Canadian fighter jets from the U.S.-led bombing campaign.

Nearly eight months later, however, none of that so-called lethal aid has been delivered.

The government still intends to provide weapons to the Kurds, National Defence spokeswoman Ashley Lemire said in an email. But first, she said Canada needs to get "Iraqi diplomatic assurances" that the equipment will be used in accordance with international laws.

"This requires time to allow for a co-ordinated interdepartmental effort to ensure good governance and accountability in the delivery of equipment," Lemire said. "Planning is currently ongoing."

The government has said little about the weapons, including how many or what type Canada is planning to send to Iraq.

Officials did say on Tuesday that Canada will purchase the weapons on the open market. They are expected to include rifles, machineguns and light mortars.

The provision of arms to certain groups involved in armed conflicts has been controversial for a number of reasons. Some say such measures only contribute to fighting, while there are many reports of weapons being lost, stolen or sold.

A report from the New York Times last month found that the U.S. has lost track of hundreds of thousands of weapons handed out in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001. Many of those have ended up on the black market or even in the hands of groups like ISIL.

Internal briefing notes show that Canadian officials have also previously worried that Canadian-supplied weapons could end up with a Kurdish terrorist group in the region, the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. …

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