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Sunday, December 13, 2015

Committee of US House of Representatives passes bill to directly arm Kurds

The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved a law permitting sending arms and other supplies directly to Kurdish Peshmerga troops operating in northern Iraq.

At present any deliveries of weapons and supplies must be routed through the central government in Baghdad. Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican, accused the Baghdad central government of routinely delaying delivery of arms to the Kurdish peshmerga forces: "This legislation cuts through the bureaucratic tape to get arms, training and medicine directly to Kurdish forces."
The Obama government does not back the legislation since they claim it is not necessary as weapons are already being sent directly to the Kurds from both the U.S. and other countries. Critics disagree, noting Masrour Barzani, the Kurdish chief of intelligence, told the Wall Street Journal that the Kurds had not received the kind of equipment they want or the amount needed — they also often run short of ammunition. Royce introduced a similar bill last year but it failed to pass. This March he reintroduced it. The bill has 49 co-sponsors including 35 Republicans but also 14 Democrats.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter explained how arms and supplies are sent directly to the Kurds: "The mechanism by which that works is there is customs approval by the Iraqi government ... but there's no delay. A large number of arms and other kinds of equipment have reached the Iraqi Kurds from us and, I think I should say, by 12 other countries."Carter did admit arms to be sent to Sunni forces battling the Islamic State move "much more slowly, frustratingly through the Iraqi government." Note the shipments to the Kurds do not go directly to Kurdistan but first must go through customs at Baghdad. There have been delays at that stage. For example, a Canadian transport plane was held in Baghdad for several days and eventually sent back to Kuwait. It had a shipment of arms and equipment for the Kurds.
The White House is no doubt concerned that it does not anger further the Iraqi central government. Baghdad worries about the increasing Kurdish incursion into territory that formerly was outside of Kurdistan. When the Islamic State routed Iraqi troops, the Kurds occupied Kirkuk and area and declared it part of Kurdistan even though before it had not been part of the nation. More recently, when with the help of U.S. bombing and U.S. special forces, the Kurds retook Sinjar, they also declared it a part of Kurdistan, a position that angers the central government. The Iraqi government has also reacted angrily to Carter's announcement that he is sending more U.S. special forces to Iraq. Just a few days ago Iraq demanded that Turkey withdraw new troops it sent to northern Iraq. The Iraqi government is becoming more and more concerned that not only is its sovereignty being violated but the Kurds are carving out new territory for an autonomous if not independent Iraqi Kurdistan. No doubt some international corporations might be happy to deal with Kurdistan rather than Iraq. Global oil companies could probably sign more lucrative deals for oil exploration and development with Kurdistan compared to Iraq. We can expect the Iraqi government will try to foster even stronger relations with Russia and Iran to counteract U.S. and western influence.


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