AFP file photo of a Peshmerga fighter taking position with his gun on one of the frontlines against the Islamic State armies.
BARCELONA, Spain – European military support for the Kurds continued to swell Wednesday, with Germany, Italy – and even tiny Albania – announcing arms supplies to Peshmerga forces fighting the Islamic State (IS/ISIS) armies.
They join Britain and France in arms supplies to the Kurds, who are also being backed with US air strikes against the militants and logistical help from Canada.
As Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi held talks in Baghdad and Erbil on Wednesday, Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti announced that Rome would supply the Kurds with light automatic weapons and ammunition from the Italian Armed Forces, as well as weapons from the former Soviet Union which were seized during the Balkan wars in the 1990s.
Italy has already sent six planes of humanitarian aid to Iraq.
Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said after a Cabinet meeting that his country is prepared to send arms to the Peshmerga.
Earlier this week, Stenmeier said in an interview with German ZDF radio that Berlin had a shared responsibility to support Kurds against their war on the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS/ISIS).
“We cannot on the one hand praise the Kurdish security forces, pat them on the back for fighting ISIS on behalf of all of us, then when they ask for help just say ‘see how you get on’.”
Steinmeier also said that “Europe can’t be indifferent to the IS advance.”
British and US security services also were working together Wednesday to try to identify the English-accented militant shown beheading US journalist James Foley in a video.
The Islamic State armies have captured large parts of territory in northern Iraq since June and have declared a Caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The fighting has killed thousands of people and displaced 1.5 million.
The UK has announced it has deployed the Rivet Joint surveillance aircraft alongside Tornado bombers to provide intelligence on IS movements.
Air support is vital to the Kurds, who do not have an air force. The Peshmerga remain the only reliable military force in Iraq, after the Iraqi army collapsed against the IS advance. However, Iraq still has an operating air force.
Stepped-up US and Iraqi air strikes are reported to have been vital in the Peshmerga winning back the strategic Mosul Dam, Iraq’s largest, from IS militants this week.
Meanwhile, the Albanian Government said Wednesday it is sending weapons to Erbil to do its part in an international coalition against terrorism.
The weapons include 22 million cartridges, 15,000 grenades and 32,000 mortar missiles.
German defense ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said the Kurds have presented a “wish list” of weapons they need to the international community, and that training for Kurdish forces also was being considered.
France, the first European country to call to arm the Kurds, has confirmed delivery of sophisticated weapons to the Kurdish forces. British media, meanwhile, have reported that Britain has deployed SAS special forces in northern Iraq to work with US troops in intelligence gathering.
On the other side of the Atlantic, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday he is committing two cargo planes to transport military supplies into northern Iraq as part of the international effort to bolster Kurdish forces in the embattled region.