The United States Republican-led Congress House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday approved legislation that would allow direct delivery of arms and other supplies to Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting Islamic State (IS) in northern Iraq.
Backers say the bill is a response to the Baghdad government routinely delaying the delivery of arms to the Kurds.
“This legislation cuts through the bureaucratic tape to get arms, training and medicine directly to Kurdish forces,” Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican from California and chairman of the committee, said afterward.
Royce drafted the bill – his second attempt to ease the flow of weapons to the Peshmerga – with bipartisan support.
The measure will now move to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
The White House and Pentagon did not back the legislation. They say it is unnecessary because weapons are already being directly sent to Peshmerga, not only from the US, but also from coalition countries.
The committee pointed to a recent comment by Masrour Barzani, the Kurdish intelligence chief, to The Wall Street Journal, that the Kurds “haven’t received the kind of equipment we want or the amount we need.”
Barzani told the paper, “Ammunition shortages are sometimes acute, and many of the Iraqi Kurds’ heavier weapons are antiques wrested years ago from Saddam Hussein’s regime.”
The Peshmerga have been the most aggressive and committed Iraqi fighters opposing IS since the group spread from Syria into Iraq in 2014.
The largely Sunni Iraq army in the region in many cases fled without a fight when attacked by IS militants.