November 07, 2015

Canadian Forces smuggling illegal arms into Northern Iraq? Not exactly.

The Mediterranean. 6 September 2014
A technician signals a CC-130J Hercules aircraft to stop on an airfield during Operation IMPACT
in the Mediterranean on September 6, 2014.
(Photo: MCpl Patrick Blanchard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)
(Used without Permission)

This is a first; I've never felt any compulsion to post anything about Canadian Forces' OP Impact; the Canadian contribution against ISIS/ISIL/IS.  However, November 7th there was a buzz on the Twitterverse about the Iraqi Ministry of Defence claiming they caught both a Canadian Forces and Swedish Armed Forces cargo flights with "illegal" weapons aboard, insinuating they were smuggling them to Kurdish forces in Northern Iraq - a no-no, especially when the Iraqi Government is supposed to be our friend. (ref: )

Specifically there were silenced weapons aboard the plane that were not on the shipping manifest, and therefore considered by the local Iraqi General at the Martyr Mohammad Alaa-air base to be contraband, and worthy of confiscating.  It seems the Canadian Forces crew didn't agree, and the CC-130 Hercules transport stayed for four days (October 28 - October 31) before being allowed to fly back to Kuwait.

Further reports arose that the planes were carrying light and medium weapons destined for Northern Iraq, but the ones that were objectionable were silenced "MP4" sub-machineguns.  Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an MP4; there is an H&K MP5, and a Colt M4 carbine (Colt Canada C8SFW); both of which could come in a silenced variant.  I'm guessing the objectionable silenced weapons were MP5s, as they were referred to as "pistols" not "rifles", and the M4 looks (to me) like it would be called a rifle before it would be called a pistol.

From what I gather, all flights to Northern Iraq need to stop in Baghdad for an inspection and to confirm the manifest fits the cargo that's being transported.  The Iraqi government still isn't cool with the Kurds up North having their own independent state, but they are both pretty busy fighting ISIS/ISIL/IS at the moment, so they are too busy to fight each other (good).


Besides the fact this was a little embarrassing, and gave Canada a black mark momentarily as an arms smuggler, it seems cooler heads prevailed and our diplomats have made up; we're friends again, and the arms that were turned away will fly on through to our JTF2 team in Northern Iraq, as they should have initially.  I guess a local Iraqi General was flexing his muscles, and without the right forms he made a stink insinuating the arms were going to the Kurds, and they don't want the Kurds to have silencers.

So what happened really?  Who knows, but I have a guess.  JTF2 was sent last year to Northern Iraq to act in an advisory capacity, and NOT be involved in toe-to-toe fighting with ISIS/ISIL/IS.  We can assume that their mission has changed (mission creep), and they are planning for close quarters fighting, maybe a rescue mission or something on the horizon.  To do that, they want their favourite bits of close quarters kit from back home; like the silenced H&K MP5.  If this cargo flight was scheduled months in advance, this might have been a last minute "just throw it in the back", after all, it's only EIGHT sub-machine guns.  Given that these silenced MP5s are being sent to our forces in Northern Iraq it's safe to assume they have an operational need for them (ie, kicking in doors).  The official excuse from one of the Kurdish officials was they are training Kurds near towns and don't want to spook the locals with loud sounds, so they needed silenced weapons.  If you believe that, well... good luck.

2015.11.10 Update: The Ottawa Citizen and Toronto Star have FINALLY picked up this story (still with no in-depth analysis), and CBC still hasn't touched it.  Incredible.

NRT / Nalia Media Corporation (Nov 3)
Voice of Iraq (Nov 3)
Iraqi Ministry of Defense Press Release (Nov 6)
Iraqi Ministry of Defense Press Release (Nov 7)
Swedish Press (Nov 7)
Ottawa Citizen (Nov 9)
Toronto Star (Nov 10)

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