Congress has also weighed in on the issue. A provision in the House of Representatives’ annual defense bill released in June threatened to cut funding for the peshmerga if the KRG decides to split from Baghdad, a clear signal to Erbil ahead of the referendum.
Separately, the Trump administration authorized a military sale in April worth nearly $300 million to equip two peshmerga brigades and arm them with 36 howitzers and small arms. Sources in Erbil say those weapons have yet to arrive.
Ismail, the Kurdish general, told Al-Monitor he did not remember the last time peshmerga troops received US weapons shipments, and said remaining American-supplied ammunition stocks were “not enough” for the fight against IS.
If the referendum does impact relations between Baghdad and Erbil, the Pentagon worries it could limit the fight against IS at a time when the militant group has lost more than 90% of its self-declared caliphate. In operations over the summer, Pentagon officials said, peshmerga fighters established a defensive line that ensnared or killed hundreds of IS fighters fleeing from Tal Afar.
Experts expect military support to continue to the peshmerga once tensions around the referendum subside.
“There are probably some hurt feelings,” Michael Knights, a Lafer fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told Al-Monitor. “I think you would just wait for things to cool off.”