US officials today confirmed that they have ditched a long-standing policy of sending arms to Iraq only through the central government, and are now directly arming the Kurdish Peshmerga.
The announcement was not exactly a surprise, as regular readers will not that we reported a week ago that US officials were promising both airstrikes and direct armament to the Kurds in their fight against ISIS.
Both of those reports have come to pass, as US airstrikes began Friday. The US announcements on airstrikes and arms have both aimed at trying to restore Kurdish military control over regions ISIS recently seized.
But directly arming the Peshmerga risks alienating the Iraqi government even more, as the Peshmerga has not only fought ISIS but seized several Iraqi cities as well in recent months, and now has a direct line to DC for more weapons as they try to carve out their growing autonomous region in Iraq’s north.
Throwing more arms into Iraq also risks giving more arms to ISIS, as the group has by and large become so well-armed by looting Iraqi military sites full of US-made gear. If they continue to score victories against the Kurds, they may acquire yet more arms this way.