A senior Iraqi Kurdish leader has called for international aid to help finance the war against the Islamic State group, saying it's a "miracle" that underpaid Kurdish forces are still on the front lines.

Masrour Barzani, head of the region's security council, told The Associated Press that the regional government is struggling to pay Kurdish peshmerga forces because of a dispute with Baghdad over oil revenues, low oil prices and an economic downturn.

Masrour is the son of Masoud Barzani, the president of the largely autonomous region.

He says plans to hold a referendum on independence for the region are still in place but "we will not declare independence right away."

The peshmerga have long been close U.S. allies, and are among the most effective forces battling IS.