EU Member States have tentatively agreed to send arms to Iraqi Kurds to help them fight the Islamic State (IS). The EU’s Political and Security Committee’s meeting in Brussels on Tuesday (12 August agreed that individual Member States are free to provide the Iraqi Kurds with weapons, while rejecting the idea of an EU-level effort to support Kurdish militia, the Peshmerga. To justify this move that may pave a way for an eventual greater EU-level involvement in the Iraqi crisis, the joint statement of the EU ambassadors meeting in Brussels “noted the urgent request by the Kurdish regional authorities to certain member states for military support and underlined the need to consider this request in close co-ordination with the Iraqi authorities”. The call for EU arms delivery to Iraqi Kurds was led by France whose foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, visited the Kurdish capital, Erbil, last weekend. Following his visit to the war-torn territory, Mr. Fabius told French radio that “There is an evident imbalance between this horrible group [IS] which has sophisticated weapons and the Kurdish Peshmergas, who are courageous but don’t have these weapons”. Reuters reported that the Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, and the Netherlands back the French proposal to send arms.
Interestingly, in a stark contrast to the EU divisions over how to respond to the United States’ controversial invasion of Iraq in 2003 during the President George W. Bush administration, the EU envoys “welcomed the efforts by the US […] to stop the IS advance”. The United States began air strikes against the Islamist fighters from the IS last week, with the State Department earlier announcing earlier this week that U.S. ground forces might be deployed to disrupt an IS siege on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, where tens of thousands of refugees from the Yazidi minority are facing annihilation. In response to the latest development and the pending humanitarian disaster in northern Iraq, the EU’s Emergency Response Co-ordination Centre was activated to facilitate the pooling of humanitarian aid from the 28 Member States.