Defending Iraq

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Sending Arms to Conflict Zone for First Time, Germany Shows New Confidence

Bundeswehr humanitarian aid, iraq
The German Bundeswehr is currently debating about what kind of weapons to send to Kurdish fighters in Iraq.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    By agreeing to deliver weapons to Iraq’s Kurds Berlin is taking a step towards a more assertive foreign policy commensurate with its economic clout.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The Islamic State’s attack on Northern Iraq has left 1.5 million people displaced.
    • There are around 800,000 Kurds living in Germany.
    • Today German troops are present in Afghanistan, Lebanon, the Horn of Africa and the Balkans.
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    Audio

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Germany will join in the scramble to arm Kurdish forces in northern Iraq to help them fight Islamic State militants, who have taken control of large portions of the country.

The German government had already said it would deliver protective vests, night vision goggles and humanitarian aid to the stricken region, but Foreign Minister Frank-Water Steinmeier said on Wednesday the government would also be willing to give combat equipment, including weapons.

Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said Berlin would examine over the next week what equipment was available to send and what the Kurdish security forces needed.

“I would assume that Germany would send weapons from the former eastern bloc,” said Tim Huxley, director of the Singapore-based office of International Institute for Strategic Studies. “This is what the British and Americans have been doing already. They are not supplying their own technology made by their own industries, but stocks they have secured from eastern bloc countries.”

Germany’s announcement came after I.S. militants released a video showing the beheading of a man, believed to be the abducted U.S. journalist James Foley.

The United Kingdom, France and Italy have already agreed to send weapons, along with the United States. So far, most countries have sent over Cold War-era weapons rather than new arms, as these are what the Kurdish forces know how to use.

However, Kurdish soldiers say they are being outgunned by the Islamic militants, who have modern weapons they seized from the Iraqi army when they gained control of Mosul in June, and have asked the international community to send more modern weaponry.

Germany, which is a world leader in military training, is one of the best placed countries to train Kurdish soldiers in using newer technology.

The move will not be popular one: A poll by Forsa shows that 63 percent of Germans are against supplying weapons to the Kurds.

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