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Sunday, May 3, 2015

US bill would allow sending arms direct to Kurds and Sunni tribes bypassing Iraqi government

Originally the bill recognized the Kurds and Sunni tribal forces as "countries" so that arms could be sent directly to those groups, and not requiring they go through the central Iraqi government.

However, the US House Armed Services Committee removed that description in the bill but still took the position that some of the aid to Iraq should go directly to Kurdish forces and Sunni tribes fighting the Islamic State in Iraq. The bill was also amended to remove a section that would send the aid only on condition that the central government distance itself from certain Shia militias fighting alongside the Iraqi troops. The committee voted 60 to 2 to send the bill to the House for consideration in May. A draft bill would authorize aid of $715 million for the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq called Operation Inherent Resolve. One quarter of those funds are stipulated to be directly provided to Kurdish and Sunni forces. The bill goes even further:The bill stipulates that US support will depend on the Iraqi government’s actions in reintegrating minorities in Iraq and on building political reconciliations. If those conditions are not met, the monetary allocations for Kurdish and Sunni forces will go up to 60 percent.

The Iraqi Ministry of Defense immediately denounced the proposal. Defense Minister, Khalid Al-Obeidi, told Rudaw:
We will reject the arming of the Peshmerga directly by the US. Arming the Peshmerga, Sunnis and Shiites must be conducted by the central government, not by the US.The bill was scheduled to be debated and voted on Thursday April 30. Up to now, the practice has been to funnel all weapons provided by the U.S. through the central government.
The bill has brought a sharp rebuke from Moqtada al-Sadr the anti-U.S. cleric and Iraqi nationalist. He had withdrawn from politics early last year. He has been uneasy about the U.S. return to Iraq but also fiercely opposes the Islamic State. He has also spoken out against Shiite revenge actions against Sunnis in areas that have been retaken from the Islamic State. Of the present bill Sadr warned:“In the event of approving this bill by the US Congress, we will find ourselves obliged to unfreeze the military wing and start targeting American interests in Iraq – even abroad."
Sadr's militia was disbanded after the US occupation of Iraq ended. US law obliges military aid to a friendly country to be made through the government. Both al-Sadr and President Barack Obama find themselves on the same side both opposed to direct funding of the Kurds or Sunni groups.

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