Iraq government challenges arms shipments to Kurdish forces
The office of Iraq's Commander-in-Chief released a statement saying that the Iraqi government had not granted foreign military aircraft the right to operate within Iraqi airspace and that the delivery of weapons to Kurdish Peshmerga forces violated Iraq's sovereignty.
The statement is probably aimed at highlighting the implications of transforming the Peshmerga into a conventional force and their gaining the option to militarily defend their claim to disputed Arab-Kurd territory, contested by Sunni and Shia politicians.
Given the federal government's growing dependence on remobilised Shia militias and untrained volunteer forces, military action that does not involve local Sunni support and has the potential to significantly weaken the Islamic State in Iraq now depends on Kurdish ground troops. These troops are supported by foreign Special Forces, military advisors, intelligence, and air support.
There is a high risk of Abadi's government opposing greater armament of Kurdish forces and autonomy, which would probably limit the scope of military aid for the Peshmerga and delay delivery of pledged aid. It would also raise the risk of a unilateral Kurdish declaration of independence.
If Abadi supports the Kurds, this will increase the likelihood of his administration making political concessions to turn Sunni communities against the insurgency, consequently enabling the government to re-capture population centres from the Islamic State. Meda Al Rowas is a Senior Middle East Analyst, IHS Country Risk.