The Senate will vote Tuesday on whether to give the Obama administration new authority to directly arm Iraq’s Kurds, even though the White House doesn’t want that power, reports Bloomberg’s Josh Rogin.
“These delays have had a negative impact on the Kurds’ ability to defend Iraqi territory and provide security for those who have sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan,” Republican Joni Ernst said on the Senate floor reported Bloomberg.
Last year, Secretary of State John Kerry challenged the US Congress to change the law, which bans the US from directly arming the Kurds. “We have to send it to the Iraqi government because that’s U.S. law,” he told lawmakers. “If you want to change it, fix it, we invite you.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairmen Ed Royce and Eliot Engel will propose a bill to directly arm the KurdsIf the Senate passes the amendment Tuesday afternoon, it’s likely some version of the idea will reach the president’s desk.
But Bloomberg reports that Obama has no intention of bypassing the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, which objects to the U.S. sending weapons directly to the Peshmerga. “Our policy remains that all arms transfers must be coordinated via the sovereign central government of Iraq,” said Alistair Baskey, spokesman for the National Security Council.
Many experts and officials say this is a betrayal of the Kurds, who are still outgunned and are running low on ammunition, mortar rounds, and rockets. But the Obama administration fears that the Kurds could use direct weapons for independence. This although some now say Kurdish successes are one of the few bright spots for the Obama administration, the New York Times reported on the 12th of June.
Recently, coalition officials have praised the Kurdish resolve in fighting against the Islamic state after US airstrikes assisted the Kurds in Syria to defeat the Islamic State (IS) in Tel Ebyad. “Since fall 2014, Kurdish forces in both Iraq and Syria, enabled by the Coalition, have only taken territory from Daesh, never ceding it,” said Brig. Gen. Thomas Weidley, CJTF-OIR chief of staff, said Monday’s press release of the US-led coalition.
“Kurdish successes, enabled by Coalition airstrikes, are exposing Daesh military capabilities and terrorists for subsequent removal from the battlefield,” Col. Wayne Marotto, CJTF-OIR chief of public affairs, said on Tuesday.
Although US officials have discussed arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, there have not been any debates yet about arming the most effective Kurdish rebel group in Syria, the People’s Defence Units (YPG), that are closing in on the IS-stronghold province of Raqqah.