Why is Obama Blocking Weapons to Kurds Fighting ISIS?

Ari Soffer writes in INN:

Arab and European states have been unable to provide Kurdish fighters with badly-needed weapons to fight ISIS – because the US is blocking the weapons transfers.

According to the UK’s Daily Telegraph, the Obama administration’s hesitation and lack of clear strategy means that US commanders, who are directing the anti-ISIS coalition efforts, are not authorizing moves to directly arm Kurdish forces in Iraq and Syria. This, despite the fact that the Kurds have proven by far the most effective force in fighting ISIS, having taken and held territory from the jihadists in northern Iraq and Syria, despite being outgunned.

Citing “high level officials” from the Gulf Arab states involved in the fight against ISIS, the paper claimed some are becoming so frustrated with Washington’s lack of leadership in the campaign that they are preparing to “go it alone” and directly arm the Kurds in spite of US opposition.

Backed by coalition airstrikes, both the Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq and People’s Protection Unit (YPG) in northern Syria have scored significant victories against the jihadists – in stark contrast to the relative ineffectiveness and disarray of Iranian-backed Shia Islamist militias in southern Iraq, and pro-regime forces in Syria.

But Kurdish commanders lament that while the collapse and surrender of the Iraqi army flooded ISIS arsenals with advanced US weaponry and armored vehicles, they themselves are largely forced to rely upon light, Soviet-era weapons and only a tiny number of anti-tank or heavy weapons.

Currently, several European states have spent millions in purchasing new weapons for the Kurds – but all of that much-needed equipment is currently sitting in storage due to the US blocking their transfer to Kurdish forces.

At least one Arab government is seriously considering bypassing US commanders and arming the Kurds, instead of transferring weapons via the government in Baghdad – which mostly distributes them to pro-government Shia militias.

Summing up the sense of frustration in some Middle Eastern capitals, one senior Arab official told the Telegraph: “If the Americans and the West are not prepared to do anything serious about defeating Isil [ISIS], then we will have to find new ways of dealing with the threat.” 

The official suggested western states simply do not appreciate the scale of the threat posed by the Islamist group.

“With Isil making ground all the time we simply cannot afford to wait for Washington to wake up to the enormity of the threat we face,” he said.

America’s Arab allies – including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states – have also expressed extreme frustration at the lack of a coherent strategy altogether.

“There is simply no strategic approach,” another senior Arab official said. “There is a lack of coordination in selecting targets, and there is no overall plan for defeating Isil.”

The report comes as the UK’s new Defense Secretary criticized the current British policy of only participating in airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq as “illogical,” and called for a new parliamentary vote on the issue.

“It is a new Parliament and I think new Members of Parliament will want to think very carefully about how we best deal with Isil, and the illogicality of Isil not respecting the borderlines,” Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said.

“We’ve always been clear that Isil has to be defeated in both Syria and Iraq. We have plenty to do in Iraq,” he told BBC Radio 4 Thursday.

But he noted that ISIS’s de-facto capital, Raqqa, together with the majority of its command and control centers, are based in Syria. “Isil is organized and directed and administered from Syria. There is an illogicality about not being able to do it,” he said.

Currently the UK only participates in airstrikes over Iraq, whose government has given permission for coalition aircraft to operate in its airspace, but not in Syria, where the Assad regime has not assented to the air campaign – which is going on regardless.

It is far from the first time US President Barack Obama has been criticized for a lack of strategy in fighting ISIS, or for underestimating the challenge.

He infamously referred to the vicious Islamist group as a “JV team,” shortly before its lightening offensive through Iraq which saw it capture vast swathes of territory and brush aside the Iraqi army in a matter of weeks.

Just last month, the US president admitted he did not have a strategy to defeat the terror group.