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Friday, March 20, 2015

British admiration alone won’t help us beat Isis – we Kurds need heavy weapons

This is a good piece by  for the Guardian Newspaper in England
Here on the frontline of democracy, Kurds are battling not just Isis, but the unfounded fears of our allies that we would use weapons elsewhere.
We Kurds are fighting the barbarians of Isis every single day, for our interests and those of the free world. We share a 650-mile border with Isis militants, and a thousand of our peshmerga fighters have paid the ultimate price. Almost 5,000 have been injured, some very seriously.
We are not asking for foreign combat troops. We will provide the boots on the ground. We are already doing most of the fighting, while the Iraqi army does the rest. But Baghdad is getting most of the foreign military supplies and we are getting the smaller portion. This cannot go on.
We are fighting with one hand tied behind our backs, with light guns against tanks and armoured Humvees that Isis captured from the Iraqi army last year. Many of our soldiers do not even have basic equipment such as helmets, body armour, boots, night goggles and winter coats. The peshmerga will suffer more casualties unless, and until, we have a much greater capacity to defend and hold our positions.
We are for the universal values of freedom and democracy. We have a long history of relations with the UK, and see ourselves as partners of choice. We know that many British citizens admire our efforts to defeat Isis. We are grateful for British military support as well as that of Germany, France, Italy and the rest of the coalition partners.
American, British and other air strikes have been vital. But we urgently need much more than the 40 heavy machine guns supplied so far by the British. We need tanks, armoured cars and heavy artillery and guns to defend ourselves and work with the Iraqi army to dislodge Isis.
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells towards Zummar, controlled by Isis.
A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter launches mortar shells towards Zummar, controlled by Isis. Photograph: Ahmed Jadallah/Reuters
But we feel that supplies of heavy weapons are being restricted and rationed because of some unfounded fears. We will use it against Isis and will always defend our homeland, and have no intention of using them elsewhere. We want and seek peace and cooperation with our partners. We may become independent in the years to come, but that makes it even more important to have good relations with Baghdad. We are pleased that the MPs on Britain’s foreign affairs committee say that independence should be accepted and respected by the UK in certain circumstances.
But that is not an issue for today. We are still trying to work with Baghdad, although they owe us billions and now claim they are bankrupt and cannot pay our soldiers and civil servants. And we are looking after nearly 2 million refugees and displaced people who have fled from Isis. We are proud of our record in giving sanctuary to the victims of Isis, but it is crippling our economy.
We cannot pull our weight without budget payments from Baghdad or loans from friends. It is simply astonishing that Baghdad says it cannot pay us but tried tostop Turkey lending us money.
We cannot pull our weight without heavy weapons either. We cannot keep waiting and drifting with Isis banging on our door every day and wanting to carry out further genocide. The stakes are very high for the Kurds, Baghdad and the rest of the world.
We are grateful that Sir Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, described the Kurds as the UK’s most reliable allies, and asked the British prime minister to look into supplying more weapons – as well as raising the issue of why we were not invited to a recent major international conference of those fighting Isis.
We ask all our friends to provide us with the tools to take on Isis. Yes, we will need to talk to Baghdad about how we live together in the future. But in the meantime, the priority is defeating Isis. We just cannot do it alone.