Iraq crisis: US pledges to arm Kurdish forces as international momentum against Isis grows

American air strikes continued over the weekend, allowing first gains in weeks against militant advance

The US has said it will begin providing firearms directly to the Kurdish forces operating in northern Iraq, as pressure grows on the Obama administration to do more to help stop the Isis advance.

Islamist militants have provoked international outrage with a campaign of persecution against Yazidi refugees and minority Christians, leading Republican senators to call the President “weak” for ruling out putting US boots on the ground.

Since the end of last week, US air strikes have provided a major boost to the morale and military capabilities of the Kurdish Peshmerga, at the front line of the fight against Isis.

On Sunday, Kurdish forces retook two towns – Makhmour and al-Gweir, around 28 miles (45km) from the Kurdish capital of Irbil – among a small number gains made after weeks of retreating.

In addition to four consecutive days of strikes from US war planes and drones, the American military has been selling arms to the Iraqi government and helping facilitate deliveries from Baghdad to the Kurds.

Read more:
Militants 'kill hundreds' as 'women and children buried alive'
Critics line up to lambast 'weak' Obama response
West's 'mandate' over Iraq crisis limited by national borders

The move to directly aid the Kurds underscores the level of US concern about the Islamic State militants' gains in the north. But it also reflects the persistent administration view that the Iraqis must take the necessary steps to solve their own security problems.

That has been refuted by the former Republican presidential nominee John McCain, who criticised the US intervention so far had been “very, very ineffective, to say the least”.

The Republican senator and former US Air Force colonel Lindsey Graham said he feared the rise of Isis would lead to attacks on US soil.

He told Fox News: “If [Mr Obama] does not go on the offensive against Isis, Isil, whatever you guys want to call it, they are coming here. And if we do get attacked, then he will have committed a blunder for the ages.”

In Britain, the former Army chief Lord Dannatt has said that the UK should consider deploying troops on the ground to help support US air strikes.

The Government’s emergency committee Cobra is to hold a meeting today to discuss the growing crisis in Iraq, and Lord Dannatt told the BBC we could not act like it was “not our problem”.

Video: Yazidi refugees

“If we do nothing and wring our hands later and say once again, 'We shouldn't have let that happen', then I think we have all let ourselves down,” he said.

“We have got to look carefully just to ensure that there isn't a genocide about to be perpetrated which we know about and while we are watching.”

The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said yesterday that his country would join the multinational effort, already including Britain and the US, to provide humanitarian aid to up to 150,000 Yazidi civilians trapped on the north-western Sinjar mountain range.

But while empowering the Kurdish forces to defeat Isis themselves appears to be the plan of action for Mr Obama, Germany has expressly ruled out following suit in arming the Peshmerga.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesperson for the German government, told a news conference: “This German government, like its predecessors, has a principle of not exporting arms to any conflict zones or war zones... This is a principle we feel committed to upholding.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea